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Mumbai: ‘Hawkers just a source of income for you!’

Updated on: 17 April,2024 06:48 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Prasun Choudhari |

Bombay High Court raps BMC for not being able to come up with a permanent solution to the hawker issue; makes suggestions

Mumbai: ‘Hawkers just a source of income for you!’

Hawkers on SV Road in Borivli West on February 7. Pic/Nimesh Dave

Key Highlights

  1. Bombay High Court pulled up BMC for not coming up with a solution for illegal hawker issue
  2. The bench in a previous hearing on February 12 had taken cognisance of mid-day’s report
  3. Justice Patel raised concerns for pedestrian safety

The Bombay High Court while hearing a suo motu PIL on April 16 pulled up the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for not coming up with a viable solution to the illegal hawker issue, citing safety issues faced by pedestrians due to encroachment on footpaths. The division bench of Justice Gautam Patel and Justice Kamal Khata also suggested various changes to the Street Vendors Act and stated that the BMC’s hawker licensing department was just another source of income for the civic body. The bench in a previous hearing on February 12 had taken cognisance of mid-day’s report ‘Hawkers flood Borivli 2 weeks after eviction’ asking the BMC to find a permanent solution to the hawker menace.

Cascading effect

Justice Patel raised concerns for pedestrian safety stating, “It is a cascading effect. Illegal hawkers encroach on footpaths, which forces pedestrians to walk on carriageways. Motor cars have only one space to use. A pedestrian is in the middle of a carriageway where he risks collision with a vehicle.” Justice Khata said, “Since pedestrians are on the carriageways, the issue of traffic jams arises. this takes the whole system for a toss.”

Justice Patel stated, “Public footpaths and roads cannot be allowed to be taken over completely by vendors permanently. The already designated hawking zones and licensed vendors are not our concern. Our concern is the non-licensed vendors who are also struggling to earn a living. The solution put forth by [S U] Kamdar [the lawyer representing the BMC] is not viable. We cannot keep taking repeated action against hawkers or we call them street vendors. Not all street vendors are equal. Not all street vendors sell contraband; some sell goods and household items or even edibles like sandwiches.”

Mobile markets

He advised the BMC to develop movable hawking zones pedestrianising the locations where these zones will be made by giving an example of existing mobile markets stating, “There are several mobile markets across the world where such mobile vendors are allotted a particular place and time frame when they can set up their goods and sell them in a given period and by mobile markets we [the bench] do not mean mobile phone or phone cover markets, here it means movable markets. For example, there is a street in south Mumbai which is declared as a pedestrian zone on Sundays and traffic is diverted through other routes. Many book vendors come and set up their stalls and then by the end of the day clear them out so that the road functions as it was before from Monday. Similarly, various locations like Marine Drive are used for the public on Sunday mornings and people across the city visit the location for recreational use. But, by afternoon, the street is cleared and back to normal.”

Protection of life

Justice Patel also suggested multiple changes to the Town Vending Committee Act, advising the BMC to formulate a parallel policy under the same Act with its suggestions, stating, “The fundamental rights of a pedestrian cannot be violated by a vendor who claims the piece of public land to be his for putting up a stall. This gets the very Article 21 (Protection of life and personal liberty) in question along with Article 19(1)(g) (Right to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business) but it protects the fundamental rights given to pedestrians by Article 21.”

The bench stated, “No-flight zones have to be designated and no hawkers should be allowed in these zones. If found, the hawker should be removed with immediate effect. An alternate policy should be developed under the same [Town Vending Committee] Act. Kamdar also pointed out that BMC officials, in the past, have been threatened or assaulted, which will be the case now as well. While taking action, officials should make sure that police presence is also requested from the police station under whose jurisdiction the area lies while taking action so that law and order is not hampered.”

April 16
Day hearing was held

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