mid-day editorial: Clear out hawkers and get on the road to safety

An MLA recently took the law into his hands, abusing and assaulting food vendors and hawkers outside Mithibai college in Vile Parle. BJP MLA Ameet Satam did this right in front of policemen, even as he accused them of not doing their duty.

The MLA defended himself saying he was overwrought with emotion after having seen four corpses recently, charred to death because of the cooking gas cylinders on the road. He claimed he was frustrated because the police were not taking action despite numerous complaints. While there maybe merit in Satam’s claims, it is unacceptable that a party MLA resorts to threats and abuse to tackle issues. Violence cannot be condoned under any circumstances.

Meanwhile, there is a bigger lesson in this for people. The hawker vs residents standoff has become a simmering problem and will surely lead to serious consequences in the future unless we make changes. A lead must be taken to hold negotiations with the hawkers’ association and the locals. Dedicated hawking zones need to be earmarked.

There also has to be some regulation of LPG cylinders that can be found in small shanties and food stalls on the road. This is extremely risky. Gas cylinders at illegal food joints are a huge hazard. Move these joints to a designated zone. Hawkers should be given a licence only if they adhere to all rules and regulations.

Meanwhile, clean-up drives against hawkers have to be done methodically. One MLA using abuse and assault is no solution. Removing hawkers has proved to be a myopic approach in the past, with the vendors quickly returning to the spot. Instead, look at this issue from a long-term perspective, only then can we arrive at a resolution, before the standoff takes an even more violent and dangerous turn.

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