Kolkata: Most of the hawkers of Kolkata did not listen to the municipality despite being instructed several times. Occupying the streets seems to have become a habit of hawkers.
Hawker survey to begin (Photo: News Agency)
Kolkata: Strict administration around hawkers occupying sidewalks. In many places in the city, there is no place to step on the sidewalk! Walk away! In this situation, guidelines have been issued on how many places hawkers can sit. It said that one-third of the pavement should be left. As per the instructions, the plastic canopy should be removed from the head. Surveys are underway to ensure that these are properly complied with. After the meeting of the Town Vending Committee, a survey was conducted and a quick action was taken. Exactly how much space the hawkers will get if one-third is to be left is being looked into. Mikeing is also going on by the police. The work of the pilot project will continue till November 22. The hawkers have already submitted the documents as per the rules. Promise to obey the law.
Most of the hawkers of Calcutta did not listen to the municipality despite being instructed several times. Occupying the streets seems to have become a habit of hawkers. In the last few years, the number of unregistered hawkers has increased steadily compared to registered hawkers on the streets of Kolkata. On the other hand, the administration is working only ‘keep a close eye’ such comments have been made continuously. But finally, a hawker survey has been started on how many hawkers are sitting on various sidewalks or important crossings in Kolkata.
The leaders of the Kolkata Police-Kolkata Municipality-Town Vending Committee made up of hawkers have claimed that this survey is mainly to create a database about hawkers in the city and to highlight where the rules are being broken or the roads are being occupied illegally. But the administrative circles are skeptical about the extent to which a survey will be able to solve the problem as a certain number of hawkers have taken over the roads used for traffic or walking in the city due to political influence.
According to Kolkata Municipality sources, this hawkers survey has been started as a pilot project in the area of three police stations. These include Shyampukur, Gariahat and New Market. Officials of Town Vending Committee said that survey work has started in these three areas. The report on the survey of hawkers belonging to these three police stations will be submitted on November 22. Then gradually the rest of the work will be carried forward.
The survey basically looks at how many hawkers are sitting, how much part of the road is occupied, where are the plastic canopies. Apart from these three important things, whether the hawkers have registered their name in the government register is also being seen. But according to informed sources, this survey was done once in the past. But there was no solution. Therefore, the question remains as to how far it will be possible to solve the complexities of encroachment and freeing the footpaths in the currently initiated survey.
Specific policies were formulated for hawkers during the Left period. One of which was to leave two-thirds of the pavement space free for sitting. But now far from keeping the sidewalk slightly empty, the hawkers have come to the street by filling it completely. Although there are registered hawkers, they have objected to such a decision of those hawkers. But the number of hawkers raising those objections was so small that it didn’t matter.
According to data from the Town Vending Committee, in 2015 when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee directed to register hawkers in the government register, 59,000 hawkers in the metro expressed interest and were registered by submitting documents. But in reality, there are about 275,000 hawkers in Greater Kolkata. Greater Kolkata with New Town, Bidhan Nagar and Rajarhat. There are 16 lakh hawkers in West Bengal. 4 crore hawkers across India.
Town Vending Committee was formed last time in 2018. Since then this town vending committee has not been formed. Then again this year a committee has been formed. As per rules, a Town Vending Committee will normally consist of 40 per cent hawker representatives, 10 per cent hawker representatives, 10 per cent representatives of voluntary organizations and 40 per cent representatives of the police and the Calcutta Municipality. There will be a total of 18 members of this committee. Although this is the rule, in reality 70 percent of the people from the administration are placed in this committee. So that the control remains in the hands of the administration.
The officials of the concerned committee are stressing the most about removing plastic canopies over the heads of sidewalk shops in the city. Because it has come up again and again that this plastic canopy was one of the reasons for one fire after another. These issues have also been repeatedly instructed by the Kolkata Municipality and the state administration. But the hawkers have stuck to their place by pointing their thumbs.
Recently, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, while inaugurating the Tala Bridge, expressed some displeasure with Kolkata Municipal Mayor Firhad Hakim over hawkers encroaching pavements and plastic canopies. He even questioned why the identity cards of the hawkers had not been produced yet.
After that, a meeting of the town vending committee officials was held on the direction of the mayor and a decision was taken to formulate specific policies quickly. After the fire broke out in Gariahat’s textile market, it quickly spread to the hawkers’ stalls through the plastic canopy. But the situation did not change even then. After the fire in Gariahat, Mayor Firhad Hakim held a meeting with the representatives of hawker organizations to remove the plastic canopies from the pavement stalls. The police were also instructed by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation that there will be no plastic on the footpaths. The mayor said that the Thailand model for hawkers would be imitated by removing plastic from the sidewalks. According to that model, hawkers will have square umbrellas placed in their stalls.
But after three years, nothing happened. According to an official of the municipality, “The hawkers did not agree to accept the proposal of the municipality. For which it is still not possible to remove the plastic.”
According to Kolkata Municipal Corporation officials, memories of the intense controversy surrounding Operation Sunshine during the Left era are still fresh. The opposition force had brought the left period to a standstill. Trinamool, which was in opposition at that time, is currently the ruling party. Therefore, the representatives of the ruling party warned that no wrong decision should be taken while evicting the hawkers. However, the Town Vending Committee officials have specified that no hawker can sit on the pitch road. It increases the risk of accidents. So the hawkers have to sit outside the designated part of the pavement and within the rules. Those currently sitting on pitch roads are not being evicted. Improvements are being made to their footpaths. As this statement naturally implies, no matter what the laws say, the sidewalks are going to be occupied anew. The sidewalks which are empty now, may be occupied by hawkers in the coming days. Again and again it will be said to carry out survey or surveillance like wildfire, then again whoever it is.
Where the Chief Minister says that eviction will not be allowed, how far the strict thinking of the Town Vending Committee officials will be implemented is a matter of consideration. Common people have understood that the sidewalk is not theirs. Sidewalks are made for hawkers to occupy.