mid-day editorial: #WeToo: Up in arms against illegal hawkers

Feb 24, 2018, 06:13 IST | mid-day correspondent

The 'me too' movement across the globe is about women (mostly) speaking out on sexual harassment at the workplace by men in power and authority

The 'me too' movement across the globe is about women (mostly) speaking out on sexual harassment at the workplace by men in power and authority. Mumbai may have its own 'we too' movement but in an entirely different context.

Since the day this paper ran an extensive piece about illegal stalls and hawkers in Santacruz West near the station, shrinking the road width, creating problems for traffic and pedestrians, and obliterating the visibility of legitimate, commercial stores, we have had a rush of mails from people claiming to have similar problems in other parts of the city.

It shows us that illegal stalls is a huge problem across Mumbai - Colaba Causeway is an example of skirmishes locals and shopkeepers keep having with hawkers and makeshift stall owners on a regular basis.

Even though some shops may be legal, they cross the width and height limit given to them with impunity, secure in the knowledge that there is nobody to check. Most residents are scared of the hawker mafia, which is not a figment of their imagination. There may be revenge for complaints.

The threats they get need to be taken seriously. A man who believes that his livelihood has been taken away because of a complaint by somebody can be dangerous. This is one more pointer on just how serious this situation has become in Mumbai. It is a tinderbox waiting to explode.

We must see aggressive action in tackling these problems. The locals are understandably cynical and at their wits' end because of the boomerang effect: evict illegal sellers only to see them appear the next day. Designated hawking zones may help. Interactions between licensed sellers, residents, and BMC corporators of wards for a solution is another way. Whatever works for the city is good but to ignore the simmering situation is to do so at one's peril.

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