The sprawling Sainath Market in Malad faces the danger of a riot-like situation with ugly fights breaking out between licenced shopkeepers and hawkers almost every other day over space. Pics/Satej Shinde
The sprawling Sainath Market in Malad faces the danger of a riot-like situation with ugly fights breaking out between licenced shopkeepers and hawkers almost every other day over space. Pics/Satej Shinde

Hawkers will cause ripples wherever they go. After the recent Linking Road fight, it's now the turn of Malad's Sainath Market, a hotbed of the hawker menace. However, in this case, they are pitted against the owners of the shops doing business in the market.

The 10,120-square metre plot, comprising a total of 445 shops, has an equal number of hawkers encroaching on the stores, allege the owners, adding that ugly fights over space are a regular at this BMC market.

Hands in gloves?
Prashant Bagul, secretary of the Shri Shiv Shakti Society, an association of shopkeepers in the market, said, "There are fights every week, it's time we put an end to this. We are already fighting a court case against BMC officials, who, we think, are behind the entire scam. Just to show, they come and check the market once in a blue moon, after which the hawkers are back to business."

"Only the shops have a licence to run business here. The hawkers' interference has not only affected our business, but has also made this place a riot-prone area, endangering lives. We have been here since long, we want peace," he added.

The association alleged that the hawkers strike a deal with BMC officials, paying them off every week, which is the prime reason behind BMC's inaction. The hawkers, however, say they are old inhabitants but, since theirs are makeshift structures, will move away when asked.

Passing the buck
"We don't set up permanent shops, we run away when the (BMC) vans come. We have the right to earn a living, don't we?" said Abdul Aziz, a hawker since 30 years. Another said, "Sometimes, when two hawkers need the same space, fights happen, but they are not that big."

"Not just our business, but even the everyday life of residents in the area has been affected. Commotion between people is very common. Purses are stolen, phones are lost. Such kind of behaviour needs to be stopped," said Ajay Shivyogi, owner of a shop in the market.

When asked about the daily menace at the market, the police denied any kind of commotion and said the hawker issue is not their lookout. An officer said, "When BMC ward officials come, we jointly take action against the hawkers; as far as the market is concerned, we are not responsible for any kind of encroachment. We remove them and they come back; what can we do?"

Malad's senior inspector Sudhir Mahadik said, "Yes, fights do happen, but we can only assist the BMC when law and order is not maintained. We charge the hawkers who cause trouble outside the market, but inside the market is completely the BMC's responsibility." P-north ward's assistant municipal commissioner Sangeeta Hasnale said, "Due to the elections, we were very busy and also short on manpower, but now, action against hawkers will start in full swing."