Colaba residents meet with MLA Raj Purohit to combat hawker menace

The residents vs hawkers issue hots up. Residents insist hawkers shift, citing safety issues and parking problems at a meeting

On Thursday evening, around 100 Colaba residents with senior citizens in large numbers among those gathered, met at the Radio Club to voice their concerns about the hawker menace in their neighbourhood. Joining them was MLA of the area Raj Purohit.

With hawkers on the footpaths at Colaba, people have no option other than walking on the busy roads. Pics/Bipin Kokate
With hawkers on the footpaths at Colaba, people have no option other than walking on the busy roads. Pics/Bipin Kokate

The meeting began with a few minutes silence for the souls of two residents killed in road accidents. “The footpaths being usurped by hawkers is one of the reasons why, these two fellow residents are not with us anymore. They were crushed to death while walking on the road at Causeway,” said Sapna Thanawalla, a resident.

MLA Raj Purohit (l) talks to Colaba residents at Radio Club
MLA Raj Purohit (l) talks to Colaba residents at Radio Club

Concerns
At the meeting, many residents raised issues, asking Purohit to intervene. Hawkers being cleared from the area when VIPs visit in double quick time while not at other times, difficulty in walking on roads especially with senior citizens, children and disabled people, etc were some of the main points raised.

After listing down the problems faced by residents, Raj Purohit said, “This is a public moment. If we need to get on the streets, to protest against the hawkers then we will. This is a fight for the right to life. I stopped the Pay and Park, Nightlife policies because that is what you the people who voted me to power wanted.

I am a fighter and will not stop; if you walk behind me I will go even to Delhi and to Modi to ensure that Colaba becomes hawkers free.” Purohit said, “I am not anti-hawker. I want them to have their livelihood. We need to come up with some solutions to the problem as the BMC, police and traffic officials are not doing anything.”

Flavia Lewis, a resident said, “The hawkers have started keeping gas cylinders too. What if there is an explosion, who will take responsibility for that? They have made Colaba an unsafe place.”

Alternatives
The Colaba residents have listed some possible solutions to the hawker problem. Pervez Cooper from Clean Heritage Colaba Residents Association says, “We want the hawkers to move to a Plaza in some government owned building where they can have a shopping centre. We are not against the hawkers and understand their need to earn a livelihood.”

Ajay Multani, part of Strand Marg says, “Whenever we try to complain to the police about the hawkers they quote the Supreme Court order that says hawkers have a right to a livelihood. Near CST station a few days ago, a notice was put up saying as per a railway act, hawkers were not allowed. Why can’t Colaba, a heritage area have some similar act?”

Some residents suggested that the hawkers be moved to the footpath opposite the museum. While others suggested another Fashion Street be created to accommodate hawkers. Another group suggested, the hawkers could use the vacant area in Colaba Market, a BMC property to sell their wares. There were also suggestions made that Ballard Estate area could be used by the hawkers.

Solutions
After listening to all the suggestions, Purohit said, “The best thing to do is to set up a core committee with members from various NGOs and ALMs who would represent the larger group. I will meet them at regular intervals and discuss various ideas and ways to solve this problem.”

Thirteen members were named in the core committee and were unanimously accepted as their representatives by those who had gathered. At the meeting a letter was signed by the residents who had gathered that stated they wanted to stop the hawking policy and discipline the hawkers in the Colaba area. They suggested that NGOs and residents should be taken into consideration when any decision is taken.

A copy of the letter would be submitted in the ‘A’ Ward office, to the Colaba police, traffic police and the state government in the coming days. Raj Purohit has already submitted a letter dated April 20, 2015 to the BMC, police and traffic departments requesting action be taken in the hawkers at Colaba issue.

Excepts from Purohit’s letter

>> Suggests creation of a Fashion Street like Hawking Plaza for hawkers to conduct their business without causing nuisance to residents or escalating law and order problems.

>> Quoted a June 14, 2007 letter written by ‘A’ Ward Assistant Commissioner which recommended the entire Colaba area be declared a no hawking zone.

>> Bangladeshis are being brought as hawkers, anti-social elements are rumour mongering due to faulty policies.

>> Hawkers conniving with BMC officials and police, increasing corruption by offering bribes for illegal activities.

The issue
>> The ‘A’ Ward which includes the Colaba-Cuffe Parade-Nariman Point and CST areas will have 6,900 hawking pitches according to the BMC’s Hawking Zones Provisions.

>> The Colaba residents allege that even though the National Hawking Policy guidelines state that there should be no hawkers at a 100-metre distance from schools, colleges and religious institutions this is being flouted in their area.

>> They say, hawking spots have even been suggested near Gateway of India and Radio Club, and on GD Somani Road which are tourist areas and have schools, religious institutions and residences nearby.

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