In a space starved city like Mumbai, hawkers have found a unique way to store their commodities meant for sale. They have started using under construction sewage manholes to store their goods to prevent its confiscation by BMC officials at Vakola, Santacruz (E). Our newspaper is in possession of the footage of vendors keeping their unsold stocks in the manholes. How can vendors keep their goods inside sewage manholes? Is the city waiting for another fire mishap to occur as vendors might even keep inflammable items inside drainage! Who will be held accountable if any untoward incident occurs in this area where several dilapidated buildings exist? When will the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) act against these vendors?
Shiv Sena MLA Sanjay Potnis said that he was unaware about this incident before as he had come to know only on Friday after watching the footage. He said, “After I inquired and I was informed that those were dead drains as construction work is happening there. I am yet to receive detailed report about my inquiry on the issue. Once I get that I will be able to make comments about it and take the necessary action.”
Ever since the Elphinstone foot overbridge collapse incident had occurred, the civic body had intensified crackdown against hawkers running their businesses near footpaths and outside railway stations. However, after some days, they resurface and continue to run their businesses as usual. The alleged nexus between hawkers, BMC officials and police is responsible for illegal hawking business flourishing in the city. Often hawkers offer bribes to officials and police to avoid eviction from public places. Even money is offered to party leaders too.
Alka Sasane, Assistant Commissioner, H/East Ward, BMC stated that officials had already taken action regarding the encroachment at Vakola footpath. “It is not a new drive and we have been carrying out this effort since last three months to make footpaths encroachment-free. Hawkers return whenever some leeway is offered to them.”
“We have removed the commodities from sewage manhole. Hawkers won’t be allowed to run their business on footpath. Market building has been allotted to vendors for selling their commodities,” she added.
The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act was passed in 2014 for regulating hawkers in public areas and protecting their rights. As per the provision of the act, vending licences should be issued to a number equivalent to 2.5 per cent of the city’s population. The BMC had appointed Town Vending Committee to conduct a survey of hawkers, collect identity proof and address proof documents from them but hawkers are yet to be offered a designated place to run their business. Thus the act remains on paper due to shoddy implementation.
On the other hand, H/East Ward Complaint Officer AP Narvekar said, “I am not aware about any such incident and have not received any complaint regarding it.”
The Bombay High Court (HC) too had rebuked the civic body for its failure to regulate street vending/hawking in the metropolis to protect the rights of pedestrians, while ensuring the livelihoods of hawkers.