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Mumbai: ‘We all can coexist’

Updated on: 15 April,2024 07:00 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Hemal Ashar |

Colaba locals gather to hit back against elite stereotypes as five-year-old problems fester and election looms

Mumbai: ‘We all can coexist’

Local residents gather to discuss issues that need to be addressed. Pic/Anurag Ahire

Key Highlights

  1. A clutch of Colaba locals gathered at a garden in the area on Sunday morning
  2. The aim was to take stock of numerous problems dogging the precinct
  3. When it is regarding the Colaba Causeway, it must, unfortunately, also be about hawkers

A clutch of Colaba locals, many of them senior citizens, gathered at a garden in the area on Sunday morning. The aim was to take stock of numerous problems dogging the precinct some festering as long as five years or more, analyse progress if any, discuss possible solutions and the way ahead, especially with a general election looming next month.

Situation getting worse

When it is regarding the Colaba Causeway, it must, unfortunately, also be about the hawkers. A number of residents claimed there has been an escalation in the number of hawkers along the causeway. Residents spoke in one voice as they said, “They are now practically snaking inside several lanes. We know there are approximately 74 legal hawkers but today we see close to 180 along Causeway, so imagine how many of them are illegal. This is a tinderbox. It is a matter of time before somebody, forced to walk on the roads because of the hawker takeover of pavements, is grievously injured or there are fatalities due to being hit by a passing vehicle.”

Subhash Motwani, president of the Clean Heritage Colaba Residents Association (CHCRA), explained, “Let us make this clear at the outset that we are not against hawkers or somebody earning a livelihood. We only want walkable footpaths and encroachments to be cleared.”

Hawk talk

According to CHCRA vice-president Pervez Cooper, discussions have been held in the past as well and there was a proposal to shift the causeway hawkers to outside/near the Museum, which sees high tourist traffic. “In this way, the footpath here can be cleared. We have put forward this proposal at some forums but there is no response,” he said. Locals also pointed out that a well-organised, demarcated hawkers’ plaza would be a win-win for all. “Look at China, where one has entire buildings for hawkers,” said Motwani as others concurred. “These can become tourist attractions and spillover problems like pavement takeovers, noise pollution, huge traffic jams… will all diminish with this solution,” they said.

Parking woes

Residents also pointed out that wares and boxes belonging to hawkers are placed in the many adjoining lanes when there is VIP movement and hawkers are cleared temporarily. Double parking is a bugbear. A number of residents already pointed to double parking starting on Merryweather Road as the meeting progressed Sunday morning. “The lane becomes completely narrow due to double parking and two cars cannot pass through,” they explained. “This is doubly dangerous because we are often forced to walk on the roads because of encroachments, with vehicles very close to us,” said a doctor who has a clinic along the road.

Real mix

Most locals also rued that they were slammed as, “elitist, super rich and super snooty,” the minute they raised genuine concerns. Said Motwani and Cooper, “This area has so many unique challenges. There is the shopping strip along the causeway which sees a high density of shoppers. We have hotels, restaurants and bars, all catering to tourists too. The Gateway (of India) is a top attraction and then of course, we have residents. It is possible for everybody to coexist, if there is action on complaints with merit.”

Still simmering

There was a focus on the still simmering Bombay Port Trust (MbPT), now known as Mumbai Port Authority, issue with many commercial and residential buildings here, standing on port trust land. Residents were especially bitter as the port trust problem overshadows their lives to a huge extent. “We must highlight that despite reassurances, the port trust issue has seen no resolution. Carrots have been bandied before us as polls loom. In fact, this port trust issue has become an election to election gimmick,” many stated angrily.

Youth needed

In the end, with senior residents like Gulnar Karanjia, Mehroo Kotval and others at the meet, it was evident that citizens' voices need to be amplified by younger persons too. Residents, many of whom called for more camera surveillance in the many bye-lanes off the main road said, “We have lived in the Colaba of old and witnessed the steady deterioration of the space. Maybe, the youngsters who have not seen those times do not comprehend fully what is going on and so we see a thin presence at such meetings.”

The get-together wrapped up with sentiments like boycotting the election as the port trust issue is still up in the air, and holding a dharna at Azad Maidan; and despite scepticism by many, some said meetings like these were useful to some degree, in helping chart the way ahead. “We do not know which party will win. All we know is that we have to keep pressuring our elected representatives to hear our voices and come up with a solution. We need to resist all attempts to divide us citizens and take some of these problems to a logical conclusion,” they signed off.

Approx no. of legal hawkers along Colaba Causeway

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