Hawkers gobble up carriageways as KMC remains busy with sidewalks

Task Cut Out For Civic Body As Vendors Eat Into Road Space At Alarming Pace

Kolkata : 30 Jan, 2019 (Hindustan Times)

Kolkata:The civic brass might be racking their brains to keep the sidewalks at several intersections free from encroachment but they have a mountain to climb as the hawker menace has transcended the pavement barrier and spilled onto the road at several busy places across the city. Prodded by the high court, the state government had framed stringent rules in 2012 to keep hawkers away from carriageways. The administration, however, failed miserably to implement them.

As you drive down Brabourne Road flyover, you can hardly miss hawkers squatting on the road with their wares spread in front of them. Not only do they slow down the traffic and trigger snarls, they even put the lives of thousands of pedestrians, who try to manoeuvre past moving vehicles, at risk. “Half of Brabourne Road is occupied by hawkers, who sell all sorts of wares sitting on the road. How can this happen on a major thoroughfare like Brabourne Road, which is a gateway to the city?” wondered a traffic constable on duty in the area.

The situation on Netaji Subhas Road, which runs parallel to Brabourne Road, is as pathetic. Half the 36ft arterial road is encroached upon by parked cars and fruit vendors. A section of them has actually grabbed the middle of the road, turning the busy carriageway, which links the city to Howrah station, virtually into a one-way thoroughfare. “Traffic crawls here. We avoid this road because of heavy traffic jam during the day,” said Paresh Jana, a cab driver from the BBD Bag area.

Canning Street is another road in the central business district that has been grabbed by hawkers. Here, a section of them has slowly taken over 12ft-14ft space over the last five years. “We helplessly watched a dozen schoolbag sellers taking over one-third of the space of Canning Street. We could do nothing to stop them as these hawkers are backed by influential political leaders,” said a shopkeeper on Canning Street.

At New Market, flouting hawking norms has become a ritual. Be it Humayun Place or Bertram Street, hundreds of hawkers have taken over large chunks of roads leading to the grade I heritage market. “The civic administration has drawn a line on Bertram Street and Humayun Place and asked us not to cross it. We are adhering to the norms,” said Illiyas, a hawker who sells fancy bags on Bertram Street. When asked how could the Kolkata Municipal Corporation draw a line on the road when norms do not allow any hawking on carriageways, a market department official chose to remain silent.

Times View

The pedestrian’s and motorist’s worst fears are coming true. The slew of KMC announcements in the immediate aftermath of the Gariahat fire now appear to be, at best, a helpless administration’s unimplementable wishes and, at worst, an attempt to deflect public criticism.