Just two months after the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation evicted all hawkers and street vendors from crowded areas under the Zero Hawker Drive, they are back on the streets.
In late February, the NMMC started a large, anti-encroachment drive against hawkers and street vendors after the Guardian Minister of Thane district, Ganesh Naik, instructed the corporation to evict them. The NMMC removed all hawkers and their illegal encroachments across Navi Mumbai in a day. However, thanks to the body’s lethargic attitude, they’ve resumed operations.
An NMMC official has a different reason — he claims that the hawkers and street vendors are back because the contract for their removal terminated.
Subhash Gaikar, deputy municipal commissioner of NMMC, said “We award a contract for the removal of illegal structures of hawkers. The current contract recently expired so we could not act against them. We have invited tenders for a new contract and will take appropriate action against the hawkers in the next few days.” Lately, the NMMC acquired pick up vans and additional manpower for the eviction of hawkers.
Political pressure from local leaders has reportedly hindered the NMMC from taking strict action against the hawkers, too, said sources. The officials are often forced to return all material back to the hawkers. “NMMC officials in some wards try hard to check hawkers’ businesses and seize material. However, after a local politician pressurises them, they are forced to return it all,” said a senior NMMC official, who worked in the anti-encroachment department, on the condition of anonymity.
The hawkers, who have begun setting up their stalls, demand a separate space to carry on with their business. “We are poor and cannot afford to buy shops. We have to pay NMMC officials to set up our stalls. We will not set them up on footpaths if the NMMC gives us designated areas to work in,” said a hawker.