BMC swoops down on SoBo’s sartorial street, demolishes shops and sends people scampering
At around 11.30 am yesterday, just as business at Fashion Street opposite the Bombay Gymkhana Club, Fort was picking up, the ‘A’ ward encroachment team, lead by senior officer Nutan Jadhav swooped down on FS as it is called in these everything has an acronym and started demolition work.
Shoppers had a mix of open and closed shops at Fashion Street after Nutan Jadhav's demolition drive, yesterday. Pics/Satyabrata Tripathy
Stall 1 had its illegal roof broken, while the shopkeepers of Stall 5 claim that their goods were confiscated by the BMC.
Nutan Jadhav stated that the BMC had cancelled the license of 36 hawkers on the Fashion Street stretch, but these are the ones who keep coming back.
Some hawkers made the most of the situation striking good deals while the rest of the shopping promenade was closed as a mark of protest
M Khan who works at a stall that sells handbags says, “Jadhav ma’am comes three to four times in a month and starts breaking our shops. We never get any prior notice or warning. She just drags us by the collar and picks sticks to beat us. If we object she complains to the police and says we molested her.”
Jadhav reacts saying that she never hits anybody, whatever force if any is used, is used by the police. She blamed the shopkeepers for gheraoing her and using mob mentality to intimidate her. “They extend their stalls illegally, and the real owners sublet their stalls.”
The shops all along Fashion Street were closed, post the demolition. Nadeem K, a seller says, “Some shop owners took Jadhav and went to the police station. She had no case against us, yet she came. We live in fear.
We decided to protest and close this world famous shopping centre today. Our main business hour has been ruined by this drive.”
Jadhav says the civic authorities are going to issue a notice to stall owners, henceforth and give them two days time to clear all illegalities. If they do not pay heed to this, then, they will swing into action.
“We need to maintain solidarity. Also, Jadhav can come at any time, there is no guarantee. It is better to lose business worth Rs 5,000 rather than goods worth Rs 40,000. Very often, the fines are Rs 10,000 plus and our goods get damaged or robbed. If we take videos of the drive, she breaks our phones or takes them away. Jadhav doesn’t even spare shoppers taking videos, she forcibly deletes those,” says Sweety A, who sells belts.
Jadhav retaliated saying, that, she in fact has videos of stall owners trying to intimidate her.
Though there was the call to close shops, many shopkeepers towards the north side of Fashion Street whose shops were not touched, chose to make hay when the sun shone. They were selling their wares at cheaper prices and also warning customers that ahead there will be no shops open.
Manish Patel, a shopkeeper selling men’s clothes says, “We get daily wages and our families depend on the money. This is a weekly affair; we are used to it now. We cannot afford to keep our shops closed. Since there is less option, we are getting more business.”
Shoppers were surprised to see Fashion Street out of sorts. Neelima Malik, a Sandhurst Road resident says, “The shopkeepers told me that it is closed. I walked ahead and found a few shops open near Cross Maidan.
There is very little choice available. My cousins have come from Uttar Pradesh; their day of shopping has been spoilt due to the drama.”
Foreign tourists were very surprised. Miguel Santana, an Argentine who is visiting the country says, “I read a lot about Fashion Street in books about Mumbai. It is very sad that it was closed today. I was also looking forward to trying out my bargaining skills.”
It was a happy moment for Tarun Yadav and his friends as shopkeepers were agreeing to low prices. He says, “I am so glad to come today, it is super sale. The shopkeepers were busy ferrying their goods from taxis where they hid them during the demolition. Some were resetting up their stalls. I feel we got the best deal in all this drama.”