So what’s the latest excuse that the BMC is offering to explain why it has mostly failed to tackle the hawker menace in the city? The fact that its anti-encroachment squad is insufficient to deal with the problem.
Sandeep Deshpande, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena corporator from Dadar (West), said, “My voters have been complaining to me regularly about illegal hawkers who block roads, so I enquired in the ward. I came to know that there are only 12-13 people to take action against thousands of hawkers. How can they manage such large numbers of illegal hawkers? It is impossible to make Mumbai encroachment-free with this manpower.”
He added that he would write to the municipal chief requesting an increase in the number workers allotted to the anti-encroachment squad. There are over three lakh hawkers in the city, and approximately 2,86213 of them are illegal, as only 13,787 hold licences. About 603 BMC workers make up the anti-encroachment squad. The city is divided into 24 administrative wards, each having 12 to 13 staffers for each of the two shifts responsible for evicting illegal hawkers. Each ward is given two vehicles for this purpose.
The team at the south Mumbai (A) ward, which stretches from Colaba to CST, has been most active. Over 62,500 hawkers have been evicted from these areas in the past three years. H-west ward, which stretches from Bandra to Vile Parle (W), stands next in the list of toppers, having removed 33,010 hawkers, followed closely by Andheri (East) with 30,134 hawkers evicted.
According to statistics obtained from the BMC, the anti-encroachment department has removed 5.42 lakh hawkers from the city in the past three years and collected Rs 8.32 crore in the form of fines. The problem however is that even after being ousted from the streets and pavements, the hawkers return in a few hours and resume business. Dinesh Pandey, a hawker from Dadar, said, “Nowadays it is very difficult to do business as the BMC does not allow us to sit without licences. If we ask for licences, they refuse to give one to us.”
The BMC has framed a policy for action against illegal hawkers in keeping with the guidelines of the Supreme Court, but it is yet to be implemented as a final nod from the government is still awaited.
“We have submitted our proposal to the state government and it is with them. We will take action as per the state government’s order,” said SP Bande, licence superintendent of the BMC. Asked about insufficient staff, he said, “Whenever the wards need to, they opt for contracted labourers and vehicles to take action.”
He also stated that the BMC has stopped issuing licences since 1970, as part of its policy. There were 15,159 licence holders in 1970, which later dwindled to 13,787 after the deaths of many hawkers. Their licences weren’t transferred to their legal heirs.
The Supreme Court had passed an order in February 2007 asking the central government to frame a national hawker’s policy. “In 2009-2010, the BMC had framed a policy and sent it to the state government’s urban development department, as the state wanted to make some changes to the BMC Act. This in turn led to a delay in implementing the policy,” said a civic official.
Yesterday, the anti-encroachment squad took action against 765 illegal hawkers and collected Rs 25.74 lakh in way of fines from them. The action across the length and breadth of the city, in areas like Bazar Gate, Modi Street Road, Tata Road in south Mumbai, parts of Girgaon and Byculla in the island city. In the western suburbs, the squads came down hard on illegal hawkers in parts of Goregaon, Dahisar and Borivli Market. In the eastern suburbs, parts of Vikhroli, Chembur, Kanjur Marg and Nahur railway station were cleared by the BMC squads.