Even though the year began with an aggressive campaign with cops hell-bent on keeping the streets hawker-free, Mumbai’s illegal vendors have taken to the streets once again. But police officials are passing the buck onto the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). For as soon as the BMC squad, in-charge of keeping the streets free of encroachments, is out of sight, the hawkers regain their forts on the streets.
While 40 per cent stalls have been issued licenses, the rest continue to sell their goods illegally. Abaz Mohammad, a hawker at Hill Road, said, “We don’t have an alternative way to earn our living and we also have no money to pay the rent of the shops. We would rather pay R 1,200 as fine when the BMC squad does the rounds.”
A majority of the stalls are lined up on Dadar Station, Linking Road, Near Ghatkopar Station and Hill Road. Hafiz Ahmed a stall owner at Ghatkopar, claimed that some of the stalls have sprung up about a month ago, and the authorities have not been taking sufficient action despite being approached with evidence against hawkers.
Citizens’ federations are not satisfied with the BMC either. GR Vora, member of F-North ward citizen federation, said, “BMC has to file an FIR against the encroacher under its act. But they have not lodged our complaints. The hawkers, police and the BMC are hand in glove. The hawkers are warned when the BMC squad is approaching.”
SP Bande, License Superintendent of BMC, said, “Every day, we take rounds and confiscate the goods of the illegal hawkers. In many wards, we have confiscated truckloads of goods and have not returned them yet. It is not possible to appoint a police officer for 24 hours to look into this. We try our best to stop the illegal hawking, but there seems to be no permanent solution.”
Janvi Durve, a daily commuter at Ghatkopar felt that the BMC officials act choosy for some time. “Most of the illegal hawkers are situated at prime locations from where the vehicles of senior civic officials and those from the encroachment clearance squad pass. But they conveniently choose to ignore the illegal stalls,” she complained.
According to the police, it is the BMC’s responsibility to take action against the hawkers. Pundalik Ghadve, assistant police inspector of Bandra police station, said, “The BMC is authorised to confiscate the goods. When we get orders from them, we are there to dump the hawkers’ goods. The BMC has provided the licenses to certain hawkers and they are aware of those who have licenses and those who do not.”