The fact that politicians back illegal hawkers in the city and rush to their aid when police or civic authorities take action against them is an open secret, and yet authorities have never taken any action against the politicians, alleged civic activists. Ironically, action has always been taken against the officials who evict hawkers.
Civic officials justifies their stand. As per the law, once the BMC evicts illegal hawkers, the police has to ensure that they are not back on the road. “After the BMC takes action, if the hawkers come back, the onus is on the police,” said Mohan Adtani, additional municipal commissioner.
In a recent example of the police paying the price for doing their job, assistant commissioner of police Vasant Dhoble was transferred after his team took action against illegal hawkers. Crime Investigation Department is trying to find out if the hawker who died was hit by Dhoble which led to his death and whether he was trying to flee the scene as he was doing his business illegally. However, Dhoble has already been transferred after pressure mounted on the home department.
Priya Dutt, MP from north-west Mumbai, is said to have pressurised the state government to transfer Dhoble. However, talks doing the rounds also suggest that the transfer was a result of pressure from the owners of bars and pubs.
In a similar case a few months ago, the BMC commissioner transferred Devendra Jain, assistant commissioner of G–North ward, succumbing to pressure from Shiv Sena, after he took action against illegal hawkers outside Dadar station. Jain was transferred after hawkers blamed that a newspaper vendor died of a heart attack during the eviction drive. Sena leader Sada Sarvankar had demanded action against Jain.
Though it had been established that the vendor had suffered the attack in the morning at his home, much before the officer and his team swung into action, and that he was admitted in hospital when the action was going on, the civic administration transferred Jain to please the Sena bosses.
Jain had not only took action against the hawkers but also ensured that they don’t come back on the streets. He, along with a citizens’ group, had ensured that the footpaths and roads leading to Dadar station remained free of hawkers.
Civic activists across the city have been taking up the issue of illegal hawkers and have also complained about the nexus between the politicians and hawkers.
“It’s a huge scam. Whether for votes or money, politicians help hawkers. But the saddest part is that bureaucrats and top police officers give in to the politicians’ pressure. Why should an officer get transferred for doing his duty?” said Aftab Siddique who has been fighting against Baba Siddique, Congress MLA from the area who has been backing hawkers on Linking Road and Hill Road.