mid-day editorial: Colaba needs a clean-up job, now

On Thursday, Colaba’s worst fears came true when the Metro House, at the corner of the famous Colaba shopping street caught fire. There were fortunately and quite miraculously, given the scope of the fire and the density of the area, no casualties but there has been substantial damage to commercial establishments.

For two-three years now, this paper has been documenting the slew of problems in the SoBo strip. Many of these, of course simply mirror the situation elsewhere, from congestion, to double parking, to sorry state of footpaths.

Yet, there is one huge, simmering problem, which is quite unique to the area, given that it is the city’s primary shopping strip. It is the clash between hawkers growing steadily in number, and residents.

Residents claim that the number of illegal hawkers have zoomed exponentially in recent times, overrunning footpaths, blocking access to entry points and shopkeepers complain bitterly about how their display is blocked because of hawkers wares. The situation has bordered on combustible in the past with residents going to the cop station, hawkers crying foul and Colaba residents have admitted that they have been fearful of their lives in this face off as they are wary of the wrath of the hawkers.

This is the best time for authorities to step in and begin clean up Colaba. Serious thought has to be given to relocating hawkers, in the vicinity, so that one unclogs Colaba.

A hawking boulevard like Fashion Street, organised, clean and orderly is the need of the hour. Residents had been shouting about Ballard Estate area, even the BEST depot at Electric House is an option they said. While these venues may not be ideal, now is the time for all stakeholders to come to the table for a solution.

It is time for action and this fire is the perfect opportunity for all those concerned to come to a decision about the hawkers and act on it.

The Metro House fire shows us how there is no time like now.

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