If Mumbra is on your Iftar trail this Ramzan, scratch it off the list. Gone are the rows and rows of lip-smacking haleem, kebabs, biryani, clothing and knick-knack stalls on a popular 2-km-long stretch from Amrut Nagar to Kausa market.
Locals say the number of stalls have halved this Ramzan as compared with previous years. Pics/Sameer Markande
The Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) is allowing vendors to set up food stalls only from 5 pm-7 pm each day as part of its road decongestion initiative. The restriction comes on the heels of a mega demolition drive, carried out a month ago under the TMC’s road widening project, during which a number of illegal shops and hawkers were removed.
Caved under pressure
Despite being hauled away, the vendors returned to the street on June 6, when Ramzan began. Civic officials began driving them away. Taking umbrage at this, locals demanded that they be provided some stalls to break their fast. The TMC relented, but placed riders: that vendors will be allowed to hawk only in a 200-m designated zone — Gulab Park — on the street and that too only for two hours, just enough to allow people to break their fast.
Following these diktats, only a handful of stalls, primarily those selling fruits, have been set up. Locals say their number has halved as compared with previous years. Ditto the case with shoppers and foodies. The street now bears an eerily desolate look during the day and barely comes alive in the evening.
Sandeep Malvi, deputy municipal commissioner, Mumbra ward, and public relations officer, TMC, says vendors have been warned against stepping off the zone.
“We have marked boundaries. The hawkers have been given special permission to set up stalls, keeping in mind people’s needs during Ramzan.”
Hamida Manjothiya (52), a resident of Gulab Park, however, still feels short-changed. “The large crowds shopping and indulging in delicacies in the evenings used to give us a feel of being on Mohammad Ali Road (a popular street in south Mumbai that serves scrumptious Iftar spreads during Ramzan). But this year, everything has changed. Two of my four daughters are married and stay in Dubai and Mira Road, respectively. They usually visit us during Ramzan and all of us go out in the evenings to shop and indulge our taste buds after prayers. Civic authorities should allow vendors to run their stalls all through the evening at least for a month,” she suggests.
Why dual standards?
Shamim Khan, president of the Nationalist Congress Party, Kalwa-Mumbra, lauds the TMC’s decongestion initiative, but asks why Mohammad Ali Road hasn’t faced a similar crackdown.
“This road widening project will sort out traffic issues in the area. We, along with residents, support the project despite a number of hawkers suffering losses since at the end of it, it’s all for the development of Mumbra. Mohammed Ali Road is more congested than Mumbra. But then, food stalls are allowed there. Why such stepmotherly treatment for Mumbra?”
Khan says he has written a letter to municipal commissioner Sanjeev Jaiswal to allow food stalls to run 24x7 all through the month in Mumbra.
“Most of these vendors are dependant on Ramzan sales. After Eid, we will ask the authorities to clear these stalls.”