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  Home >> Hawkers >> It is about time civic bodies make the hawker issue a part of their master plan, says Yogesh Sadhwani

It is about time civic bodies make the hawker issue a part of their master plan, says Yogesh Sadhwani

Hawkers have become an integral part of our lives; we hate them, but we need them. We may complain about them encroaching on our spaces, but almost all of us buy goods from them - fruits, vegetables, and much more. The problem is further complicated by the fact that if hawkers are evicted, many will be rendered unemployed, which in the long run, will become a bigger problem for the authorities.

    With the number of hawkers increasing by the day, the problem has become critical. Any area that has hawkers encroaching on its public spaces commands a relatively lower price. Moreover, the quality of life is affected in areas where roads and footpaths are blatantly encroached by hawkers. Along with hawkers come problems like lack of sanitation, clogging of
drains, and scarcity of parking spaces, among other things.

    Take the case of a well-known complex in a central suburb. One of the prominent lanes in the project was declared hawking zone a few months ago. The residents raised a hue and cry primarily because they believed that the move would not only affect the property prices but also lead to several other problems.

    Experts point out that any solution cannot be at the cost of livelihood of the hawkers. Citispace, a Mumbai-based NGO that filed a case in the Supreme Court in 2002, also believes in a solution should benefit the citizens as well as protect the hawkers' interests.

    While the case is still in court, and a three member committee is finalising hawking zones in the city, citizens and various NGOs have already raised a hue a cry about their location. Citizens have also picked flaws in the recommendations of the committee. According to these recommendations, a mere 25,000-odd hawkers will be given space in hawking zones while approximately two lakh will be termed as roving hawkers.

    Experts are quick to point out that the concept of roving hawkers will not work. "It is impossible to implement the system of roving hawkers. They are bound to squat in one place. Moreover, there is no mechanism to keep a check on them all the time," says a member of a prominent NGO in the city. Another points out that even if the concept does succeed, it will lead to the problem of noise pollution. "In a bid to attract the attention of the citizens while roaming around, the hawkers will shout. This will obviously become a menace. "

    There is a way out, experts say. Vinay Somani of the NGO Council that has been working closely with the BMC on the hawker issue says that the problem needs to be broken down and all the stakeholders must be taken into consideration. "The hawker problem in South Mumbai is very different from that in Malad or for that matter in Central suburbs. There should be a
broad- based policy that will apply to the entire city and then micro policies for each suburb," he says.

    Somani's solution includes weekly markets, constructing plazas wherever feasible, and also involving citizens in monitoring.

    At a recent meeting of the Council, the members suggested that hawkers need to be segregated depending on their wares. Those vending convenience goods like vegetables, fruits, newspapers, flowers and paa should be rehabilitated in designated hawking zones.

    Hawkers vending goods that are not bought on urgent basis, like ice cream, sandwiches, bags and garments should be rehabilitated in plazas or allowed to roam the streets. Those selling food items, according to the NGO Council, should integrate themselves with shops, establishments or co-operative societies. Vendors of items like firecrackers, audio cassettes, CDs, and electronic goods should be prohibited from hawking.

    As far as hawkers in hawking zones are concerned, the Council is of the opinion that they should use pre-designed uniform stalls so that BMC can easily penalise those who flout norms and at the same time uneven hawking pitches do not inconvenience citizens.

    Pervez Shaikh, President of Urban Street Vendors Lok Seva Kendra, points out that a permanent solution can be arrived at only when people accept that hawkers are an integral part of our society and at the same time hawkers understand that they cannot haphazardly encroach on public spaces. 
    "BMC also needs to get its act together and the civic staff should stop taking money from hawkers," he says. He believes that to begin with the BMC must identify the number of hawkers in the city. "Till date we do not have a fix on the number of hawkers. And without any concrete figures, there is not much one can do," he says.

    Shaikh adds that once the figure is known, the hawkers need to be rehabilitated in all the suburbs in respective hawking zones. "In the long run, BMC can construct plazas and relocate the hawkers in them. Rather than wasting money on initiating action against hawkers, BMC must spend on development of markets," he strongly believes. Like most others Shaikh also
believes that the problem is very different in every suburb in the city and that the solution has to be tailor made depending on the area. 

    The BMC officials are also open to the ideas. "As of now we don't have an option but to go by what the three-member committee has recommended. But if somebody does come up with a plan, we are quite open to exploring it," Subrat Ratho, BMC's additional municipal commissioner says. 

     A planner working with MMRDA, who requests anonymity, says that the civic body must make the hawker issue a part of their Master Plan. "It is about time civic bodies keep aside some space for hawkers in all the areas. It is never too late to plan," says the planner. He adds that in the short run, the civic body must go ahead and relocate hawkers in hawking zones designated by the threemember committee and in the long run construct markets.

    "But till such time that BMC does not come down heavily on hawkers vending in nonhawking zones, nothing will change. No matter how many markets they construct, if hawkers continue to vend in non-hawking zones, the situation will not improve," says the planner

    Officials in BMC's market department are also in tandem with the planner. "Most of our existing markets are empty primarily because hawkers are allowed to sit outside," admits a senior official in the market department. He explains that there are over 200 plots in the city that can be developed as markets. "Our Development Control Rules allow development or redevelopment of markets by private developers. But what is the point in constructing fresh markets when the old ones are lying vacant," he says.

    All in all, the solution lies with the BMC, which needs to get its act together.


The problem of hawkers is a complex one; while we find them convenient, we do not want them encroaching on our spaces

Experts point out that hawkers' plazas and pre-designed uniform stalls could offer a solution 
Hawkers say that BMC should recognise they are an integral part of society and work towards the development of markets

Publication:Times Of India Mumbai;  Date:May 6, 2006;  Section:Times Property;  Page Number:45

It is one of the beautiful compensations of this life that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping himself. --Charles Dudley Warner