Mumbai: 1,900 students to write to BMC asking it to get rid of rags market

The footpath outside Children’s Academy in Malad has been cornered by ragpickers, who sell their wares every day and force children to walk on the roads; tired of inaction, the school kids will write to the civic chief and local corporators

More than 1,900 students of the Children’s Academy in Malad will write letters to the municipal commissioner and local corporators, asking them to get rid of hawkers on the footpaths right outside their school. It is because of these hawkers that the children are forced to walk on the roads amidst traffic, putting their lives in danger.

Children’s Academy in Malad (East) has nearly 4,000 students. Pics/Nimesh Dave
Children’s Academy in Malad (East) has nearly 4,000 students. Pics/Nimesh Dave

Children’s Academy is a private school in Bachani Nagar, Malad (East) with nearly 4,000 students enrolled from pre-primary classes right up to Std X. There are two shifts and children commute to and from the school either in school buses or in private vehicles.


Right outside the school, ragpickers have taken over the footpath on both sides of the road. These hawkers run a ‘chindhi’ (rags) market, where discarded pieces of cloth from factories are sold from morning to sundown.

The street outside the school has been cornered by these ragpickers, who sell their wares from morning to sundown, forcing children to walk on the roads amidst traffic
The street outside the school has been cornered by these ragpickers, who sell their wares from morning to sundown, forcing children to walk on the roads amidst traffic

When the school shifts end both at 12.30 pm and 6 pm the entire B L Murarka Marg outside is crowded with students, parents and a host of cars, buses and auto rickshaws besides the regular vehicular traffic and pedestrians moving about.

With the hawkers occupying the footpaths, students and parents are forced to walk on the road, which slows down the traffic of the area. But the more worrisome repercussion is that the lives of students are at risk, since they have to navigate their way through traffic, and this could lead to accidents.

In action
The school has been pursuing the matter with the local ward office and Traffic police for three years, but to no avail. “There are almost 2,000 students outside on the road at a time.

We can’t wait for a tragedy to happen,” says Sudha Shanbaug, the school principal. Shanbaug and the school management have written to the BMC’s P/North ward office several times since 2013.

The first letter was sent in April 2013, followed by similar letters to the Traffic police and then Mayor Sunil Prabhu. Prabhu had then directed the ward office to take necessary action, and the ward office did comply.

The hawkers’ wares were confiscated but after the civic officials left, the simply got more wares and continued to operate there; they didn’t bother collecting their confiscated rags. “The ragpickers collect leftover cloth from garment factories and sell it on the footpaths here.

This is a one-of-a-kind market where citizens buy scrap cloth for tailoring purposes. I wonder who is giving them patronage that they have become so fearless,” said Shanbaug, adding that the Traffic police had provided a cop once in 2013 to help them handle the traffic, but he stopped coming the next day.

The school wrote several letters thereafter to the ward office, Deputy Municipal Commissioner Vijay Balamwar, and the Traffic police in 2014 and 2015, the most recent one being in April 2015. Every time the BMC conducts a drive, it writes back to the school stating that necessary action has been taken.

But the hawkers simply return with renewed vigour. Tired of the authorities’ poor response, the school has now decided on a unique protest. It has asked each of its 1,900 students from the secondary section (Std VI to Std X) to write to local corporators and the municipal commissioner, requesting the removal of these hawkers.

Around 1,900 such letters have been collected and the school is now planning to meet the ward officer Devendrakumar Jain next week to submit the entire stack for their pleasure.

BMC speak
When asked about the school’s repeated complaints, Vishwajeet Jogal, an official from the ward office’s licence department, said, “We have cracked down on these hawkers but they keep coming back.

All we can do is confiscate their goods, but they are not even bothered about them. The school should now approach the local police to get rid of this menace.

Also, locals should stop patronising these hawkers.” “I will take action against these illegal hawkers tomorrow itself. Even if they keep coming back, we will take repeated action. That is the only solution to curb the menace,” said Devendrakumar Jain, assistant commissioner (ward officer), P/North ward.

Voices

Rutvi Shah, a Std X student
When we leave, there is a lot of chaos. As the roads are narrow, there is a traffic jam all around. We cannot reach home on time.

Aarya Agarwal, a Std VII student
These hawkers capture the space on the road and create problems for others. They are the main cause for traffic (jams). Such traffic may also delay ambulances and cause deaths. A lot of fuel is also wasted.

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