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Covid effect in Mumbai: More hawkers spring up, and in new streets



Many people who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, were forced to resort to selling eatables to make a living. But this has led to a new problem, as once hawker-free roads are full of them. While people understand the issue of the jobless, they say they are inconvenienced by the congested roads. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has not yet tackled the issue. The hawkers’ policy that could help resolve it, is still on paper after 7 years. A man who lost his job at a garment factory said, “Now I sell fish on a road in Borivli.” 

The BMC does not have any data of the number of people hawking in the various wards, but most former corporators have made the observation that hawkers have increased. Some officials said they act when they receive complaints but the hawkers get back again.

Hawkers on both sides of Ramwadi lane near Bhuleshwar

Bhuleshwar

Khau galli in Bhuleshwar is almost packed with  hawkers. It wasn’t so before. Agyari lane, third Bhoiwada lane, Ramwadi, Dawa Bazar are full of eatable stalls and those of people selling vegetables. “A resident in my ward lost his job, and now sells bananas in front of his building in Girgaon. What will he do? But again this creates a nuisance to traffic on the already narrow roads in Girgaon,” said Rita Makwana, ex-corporator. She said almost every street of Mumbai is flooded with these new hawkers. 

Sameer Mujawar, who now sells fruits on one of the roads in Colaba said, “I used to work in a garment factory in Bhiwandi, but lost my job during the pandemic. I had to do something for a livelihood, so with some help, now I sell fruits.”

Another person who worked as a packaging assistant in a garment factory in Dahisar, also lost his job in the pandemic. “Now I sell fish on a road in Borivli. It is not by choice but who will run my house?” he said.Many others have a similar story to tell. “Many people started vending on the roads in the pandemic when the old hawkers went to their villages. Now some of the new ones have become full time vendors,” said Salma Sheikh, an activist who raises her voice for hawkers issues.

Agyari Lane near Kalbadevi also has hawkers selling their goods on both sides of the road. Pics/Bipin Kokate

Kurla 

Pravina Morajkar, ex-corporator from Kurla also said the number of hawkers increased as many people lost their livelihood in the COVID-19 pandemic. “The ward takes action after my complaints but the manpower is insufficient for the larger L ward,” he said. 

“We get many complaints but the action was restricted due to manpower. Now we are hiring labourers for the demolition drive,” said Mahadeo Shinde, ward officer of L ward. Another official from the ward informed that they are hiring 17 labourers as complaints have increased.

“There are 8 police stations and 16 corporators in one ward with more than 9 lakh population. The fund is the same for every ward and obviously we will have to wait for additional funds to take action,” said Dharmendra More, inspector of encroachment removal, L ward.

Andheri E, Vile Parle E

Prashant Sapkale, ward officer of K east ward said, “We don’t have particular data but complaints are coming about increasing numbers, as well as encroachment of hawkers on roads which were hawker free until a few months ago. Some of the roads are in Vile Parle east.”

A vendor sells eatables at Ranade Road, Dadar

Dadar

“Complaints about hawkers are on the rise. These are especially about those selling eatables. Dr Madhukar Raut Road or the end of Ranade Road near Senapati Bapat statue never had hawkers. But many food stalls have come up on those roads. Action has been taken at the ward level,” said Kiran Dighavkar, assistant commissioner, G North ward. 

Kandivli 

“People who lost their jobs started food stalls as it requires minimum investment and Mumbaikars love food. We call the ward office when there are complaints. They send vehicles with personnel to act, but the hawkers get to know this in advance and they flee for that time. I understand the issue of people who do business this way but then BMC should give them proper places, so that even customers will get better services, and the roads, footpaths will be free and there will be no hindrance to traffic,” said Surekha Patil, ex-corporator from Kandivli Lokhandwala. She claimed that Lokhandwala circle was the worst hit by hawkers. There was not a single hawker on Akurli Road in 2017 but now whole traffic gets affected due to hawkers on both sides, she said. 

“We don’t have such data on increasing number of hawkers in a particular area. We take action as and when we receive complaints,” said Sandhya Nandedkar, assistant commissioner of R south ward.  

Official speak

Every ward receives Rs 20 lakh for demolition including hiring machinery and labourers. Wards can ask for additional funds depending on the need. “There are some wards with only 1.5 lakh population and some with over 8 lakh population. The issues of encroachment and demolition are different. So there needs to be studies and a clear policy on removal of encroachment,” said an official from the BMC. 

Dayashankar Singh, founder of Azad Hawkers Union said, “Hawkers have increased. Roads where there were no hawkers are now flooded with them and it is due to the corrupt practices of the BMC.  Why doesn’t the BMC take action? If it had already implemented the hawkers’ policy and distributed vending certificates, then they could easily throw out unauthorised hawkers. But the BMC doesn’t want to do it and will continue its corrupt practices.” 

“I haven’t received a demand for an increase in funds or information that the number of hawkers are increasing. We have enough funds and the action should be taken at the ward levels,” said Chanda Jadhav, deputy municipal commissioner of removal of encroachment. 

Hawkers’ policy 

After the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act was passed in 2014 and the Supreme Court’s order, the BMC started implementing the hawkers’ policy. It distri-buted 1,28,443 forms to hawkers in 2016. Around 99,435 hawkers submitted their forms and 15,361 were found to be eligible in 2020. After February 2020, the process stopped.  In the law committee meeting of the BMC held in October, corporators demanded they be made members in zonal Town Vending Committees and passed a resolution. Since there is no provision of involving corporators in TVCs in the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014, the BMC sought clarity from the urban development department but no steps were taken later.



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