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Mumbai: Commuters’ dismay, hawkers’ delight

Updated on: 26 November,2023 04:29 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Prasun Choudhari |

The Central Railway administration has decided to legalize hawkers, raising severe concerns among commuters

Mumbai: Commuters’ dismay, hawkers’ delight

Commuters say they barely have enough space during peak hours

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Mumbai: Commuters’ dismay, hawkers’ delight

In a move that has left daily commuters dismayed, the Central Railways has decided to legalize the presence of hawkers inside trains. The decision has sparked a wave of concern among passengers, who are already grappling with the daily struggle of navigating crowded trains during peak hours. The decision to grant licenses to hawkers, aimed at regularising the informal economy within the railway system, has been met with scepticism by the very commuters it seeks to serve. 

A senior Central Railways official stated, “The licensee will be allowed to sell consumable items (allowed only in suburban trains) like packaged food items, beverages, snacks, packed pre-cut and peeled raw vegetables and fruits, etc. and non-consumables like travel-related products, mobile or laptop accessories, stationery products and newspapers, magazines and books. All trains and all classes of mail, express and passenger trains, except premium trains like Mahanagri, Rajdhani and Duranto Express across the Mumbai Division of CR have permitted the vending of various miscellaneous items, excluding food items.” 

The CR has also invited bids for a separate e-auction for suburban and non-suburban trains to be held on November 28, the official added. Commuters have for long been contending with the overcrowded trains during rush hours. The added presence of unauthorised hawkers has been a long-standing issue, with many commuters expressing frustration at the inconvenience caused by these impromptu mobile marketplaces. The decision to legitimize the presence of hawkers inside trains has left passengers questioning the priorities of the railway authorities. 

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“We are already packed like sardines during peak hours, and now they want to introduce legal hawkers? It’s a nightmare,” says Shreyas Shinde, a daily commuter on the Central line. “The focus should be on improving the commute by increasing train frequency or enhancing infrastructure. This decision only adds to the chaos.”

Ritesh Khedekar, another commuter, said, “Passengers are losing lives due to overcrowding in trains every day. This should be the concern of the railway administration. This move means that even during crowded peak hours, hawkers will pile into trains where there is no space for commuters. As it is, we sometimes have to let a train go as it is too crowded to get on to.”

Experts also feel that the added crowd could lead to emergency exits and passages being obstructed, creating a potential safety risk for passengers in the event of an emergency evacuation.

Nandkumar Deshmukh, President of the Federation Of Suburban Passengers Association said, “We will be protesting against this move in December. The Railways should have priorities like adding another railway line or increasing the number of trains, instead of legalising hawkers.”

However, Subhash Gupta, president of the Yatri Sangh Mumbai expressed mixed reactions. “An average person in Mumbai has very little personal time for shopping. The decision seems to be in favour of such commuters, but the Railways also needs to see how feasible this is. Getting vendors legalised will surely boost the railways economy.”

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