Thane: TMC asked to account for failed hawkers market

A civic official has been fined Rs 25,000 for failing to respond to RTI queries about the market and has been ordered to release information within a month

Despite spending Rs 2.8 crore, the Thane Municipal Corporation’s (TMC) promise of a ‘hawker-free Mumbra’ turned out to be such a massive failure that officials have remained tight-lipped about it, in spite of repeated RTI queries. But the pressure is mounting on officials now, particularly on the assistant municipal commissioner heading the ward, who has now been fined Rs 25,000 by the Konkan divisional commissioner for not answering the RTI applications.

Although the market was built with 300 stalls, only one shop was open on Thursday, selling tobacco products. Pics/Datta Kumbhar
Although the market was built with 300 stalls, only one shop was open on Thursday, selling tobacco products. Pics/Datta Kumbhar

The civic body had promised to take hawkers off the roads in Mumbra and instead place them in a new civic market with 300 stalls. But the project never took off, and when mid-day visited the market, only one stall – selling tobacco products – was open and doing business. The market has instead become a haven for drug addicts and other anti-social elements, complain local residents and cops.

However, the corporation will soon have to answer for this failure, thanks to one persistent activist, Hanif Dawood Kamdar (50), who is also the president of the Hawkers Welfare Association of Mumbra-Kausa. “Since 2014, I had approached the corporation six times through Right to Information Act, 2005, to ask about the market place. But I received no reply,” he said.

Kamdar claimed that he then approached the town planning department to ask about the permits. “It has been built below high-tension, 22,000-volt wires, but an official told me that there was no permission to build there. It seems the corporation is playing with the lives of people. They might have planned the market there to increase the price of the nearby residential complexes, but it resulted in failure,” he added.

But Kamdar then appealed the Konkan divisional commissioner to take some action and find out what was happening with the market. The officer took note of the appeal and last week imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 on the assistant municipal commissioner of Mumbra ward, Dayanand Gore for failing to answer the RTI applications. He also issued an order to release the information on the market within a month.

Hawker problem
At present, Mumbra has seven hawkers markets running illegally on the streets. These include two near Mumbra station, one at Amrut Nagar, one at Dargah Galli, another at Tanvan Nagar and two more in Kausa. The city has more than 300 hawkers’ stalls, mostly selling street foods, cloths and accessories.

In May 2007, a PIL (Public-Interest-Litigation) was filed in the Bombay High Court to complain about hawkers illegally stationed at the roadside and footpaths, leading to traffic and many other problems.

The market
The TMC had built the MM Vali market behind Shimla Park in Kausa, so hawkers could conduct their business there. It was inaugurated in May 2014 in the presence of NCP chief Sharad Pawar but has been lying vacant since then. Hawkers said that when it had first been opened, they had started stalls there as well. However, the market’s distant location proved to be a major problem. Apart from the R30 the hawkers were asked to pay as rent per day, they would end up spending another Rs 120 to Rs 150 just to transport their goods. “What would we have earned after spending so much money, that too when there were hardly any customers at the market?” said one hawker.

On Thursday, when mid-day visited the market, there were close to 50 youngsters gathered around the only shop that was open and selling tobacco products. Locals said many of these youths also use drugs, and a local cop confirmed this. An officer from Mumbra police station said, “Many youngsters are found in the market indulging in illegal activities such as consuming drugs. But when they see the police, they flee.”

Speaking to mid-day, Abdul Wahid, a resident of the Grace Square residential complex that adjoins the market, said the drug addicts are a public nuisance. “My residence is on the first floor and sometimes I have to scream at the kids, who always try to break the boundary wall. The iron doors of the stalls have also been broken and carried away to be sold as scrap. Earlier there were watchmen and lights on during night, but now they too have vanished,” said Wahid.

“When we bought flats here, we were assured by the builder that there would be a market, school, ground and other amenities within walking distance, but this was all just to fool us. The corporation should take action; instead of leaving this as a drug haven, the authorities should sell the stalls to unemployed people who can start some business,” added Wahid.

Waste of money
Rafiq Kamdar, a social activist and member of of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), said, “Recently, we went with MLA Waris Pathan to meet Additional Commissioner Sunil Chavan to protest about the market being a waste of money. He (Sunil) claimed that the market is illegal. Then how did the authorities allow it to be built? Even getting there is a problem. How can a common man be expected to travel so long and spend Rs 50 just to go to the market?”

The other side
Speaking to mid-day, Assistant Municipal Commissioner (Mumbra ward) Dayanand Gore said, “After the market was inaugurated, we personally shifted the hawkers to the market many times and asked them to do their business there. But they returned to the streets and it turned into a failure. The market did not receive a good response from public,” said Gore. “It was for the good of the people, but what can we do when both the hawkers and public are not interested in the new market?” he added.

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