Mumbai: Colaba owners can't use flower pots to stop illegal hawkers

Colaba owners plan to use flower pots to stop illegal hawkers denied permission by civic authorities; owners say BMC went back on its word

The Colaba Merchants Association (CMA), comprising a group of shopkeepers along Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg or Colaba Causeway, SoBo’s zingy shopping district where designer labels rub noses with rasta-sasta maal and hordes of Mumbaikars, indulge in uplifting retail therapy, maybe in need of some cheering up, themselves.

The CMA wanted to put pots like this along Colaba Causeway. Pics/Ajinkya Sawant
The CMA wanted to put pots like this along Colaba Causeway. Pics/Ajinkya Sawant

The merchants are simmering after a plan to line the pavement outside their shops with big, potted plants, has been nipped in the bud. The shopkeepers were to use these potted plants for a dual purpose, beautification and to deny space to illegal hawkers outside their stores.

Illegal hawkers block shop fronts by setting up their wares in front of them
Illegal hawkers block shop fronts by setting up their wares in front of them

The Association claims it has been in talks with various Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials from ‘A’ Ward, under which this area comes, for the potted plant proposal. Corporator Makarand Narvekar was also aware of the plan. They had been corresponding with the BMC for more than a month. They had also filled in a requisition form, but, to their shock, they were told that the forms are ‘incorrect’ and, they will not be allowed to place the potted plants.

Haresh Hathiramani from the CMA said, “The CMA had written a letter to the civic authorities attaching a form, given to us by the BMC itself, about our intention to place potted plants along Colaba Causeway, to stop illegal hawkers from selling their wares there. The BMC had accepted our proposal. We were in talks with a nursery for the pots and plants, and were to place them, once we acquired them this week. Suddenly, on Monday, May 9 the BMC suddenly did a u-turn, rejected our proposal saying no pots will be allowed and that the form we filled was wrong.”

Shane Sequeira, from the CMA said, “If citizens and shopkeepers do not want encroachments and want to beautify the area, why is the BMC not agreeing? Illegal hawking needs to stop, anyway.”

Sapna Thanawala, who lives on Henry Road in the area, and has also signed the letter with the merchants said, “A week ago, they were ready to give us permission, now suddenly they have backed out. We are not against hawkers, but, we want them to respect road laws and give us space to walk.”

The CMA was all set to book approximately 100 pots. They were scouting around for competitive rates. They had zeroed in on Vriksha Nursery in Vile Parle and Royal Pottery in Dharavi, as potential pot and plant sellers they would buy from. “The CMA wanted 2X2 pots which would be around R 800 per pot and the plant would cost separate, depending on the type of plant. We were ready to give them a good discount. It is disappointing that they have not got permission,” said Imran Siddique from Royal Pottery.

Surendra Chavan, ‘A’ ward Assistant Municipal Commissioner said, “We are not allowing anything on the footpath. I don’t remember any proposal submitted. New guidelines say we have to keep the footpath encroachment free. There has to be space for pedestrians.” When asked about the association claiming that the BMC had told them the forms filled in were faulty, Chavan claimed ignorance. An angry Narvekar said, “The ward officials kept giving us hope for 1.5 months. Suddenly, they said we had a wrong circular filled. Then they changed their version saying nothing should be allowed on the footpath and so the pots will be disallowed.”

CMA’s Naresh Jain said, “I have two pots outside my shop, which have been placed with BMC permission. The hawkers, have, on a number of occasions broken them and set up their stalls there.”

“Hawkers block entrances and boards. If we extend our shops, the BMC will disallow it, but illegal hawkers are moved temporarily. The Causeway beautification was a way to end this, but we have been let down,” ended Raj Kalapi from CMA.

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