Two attacks by hawkers within a week has Bandra residents all up in arms. Locals allege that the authorities – police or municipal officials do not take regular action against illegal hawking. Residents and civic activists in the Queen of the Suburbs expressed concern over how any civic activist would take up issues if there is no protection given to them.
Secretary of Pali Hill Residents’ Association, Madhu Poplai, said that the authorities never support complainants. “People are left to fend for themselves. It’s like ‘kuch kar ke maro ya phir darr ke maro’ (fight till you die or grin and bear it),” said Poplai.
Instead of thinking that resdients are doing half the job which municipal officials should be doing, by maintaining vigilance, they almost regard such alert residents as trouble-makers, almost treating complainants like offenders, said Poplai.
Alleging that hawkers not only exist but also flourish and prosper with political backing, she cited the example of a vada-pav vendor at Sunita Nanda Chowk in Pali Hill. The residents, she said, had asked this hawker to move out as he was not only preparing and selling vada-paav but also making dishing out an entire thali for lunch. “One wonders why a certain politician in our area openly supports these illegal hawkers. Our lawmakers are law-breakers. Now, it’s time we decided whether or not to take our fight ahead,” said Poplai.
Extending support to the residents who claimed they had been attacked by hawkers, another civic activist from Perry Cross Road in Bandra, Vidya Vaidya, said that since it involves a lot of money, politicians back these hawkers.
“There is so much at stake. A certain amount of money, in the form of hafta is passed on to them [politicians] regularly. There are spots which are demarcated by political leaders who rent these places out and make money. No police or civic official dares touch hawkers on those spots,” claimed Vaidya.
On Hill Road, however, Vaiday said they had managed to bring about some change. “Though hawking still goes on there, it’s only late in the evenings. And it took a lot of effort and consistent follow-up to bring about this change and we did get results,” she said.
Aftab Siddique, who has often had a bone to pick with hawkers, on and around Linking Road blames the ruling dispensation at all levels the municipal authorities, state and central governments for their half-baked policies. “Why form policies which are anti-public? It is quite clear that each authority is doing this for ‘note bank’ and ‘vote-bank’,” said Siddique.