mid-day editorial: Reclaim footpaths for pedestrians

Colaba Causeway remains at the centre of an ugly battle for space between hawkers and shopkeepers and residents. The Colaba Merchants Association, comprising a group of shopkeepers along Colaba Causeway, had planned to stop illegal hawkers from squatting on the footpath outside their stores, obstructing customers and their show windows. The merchants had decided to put huge potted plants in front of their shops to both, beautify the footpath and displace these hawkers. Their plans came to naught after the BMC said they will not be allowed to put plants on the footpath.

The Colaba Causeway residents vs hawkers problem has been simmering for a while now. Repeatedly, we have seen residents at loggerheads with hawkers. There have been meetings between both parties.
Corporators have spoken out, promising to clear all encroachment. Sporadic drives have been held, only to find that the pavement has been encroached again.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated issue. Several areas are facing a similar contest between residents and hawkers. Often, this verges on the point of becoming violent and it is only a question of when this tinderbox will explode.

Ultimately, footpaths are meant for walking, not for selling or buying wares. Definite steps need to be taken to rid footpaths and walking spaces of encroachments. We see that civic authorities do make an effort and drives are conducted. Yet, these seem to be an exercise in futility and have actually become a subject and object of ridicule. Like a boomerang, the hawkers simply return to the spots they have been evicted from.

Let a system prevail; let hawkers hawk their wares in designated zones. Take special care that people are not inconvenienced, or forced to walk on the roads next to speeding vehicles because footpaths are choked. Use discretion when granting licences, enforce strict clean-up drives and, above all, ensure that when action is taken, it means something and brings results.

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