‘There’s No Alternative Arrangement’: Mumbai Hawkers Rue HC Order

‘There’s No Alternative Arrangement’: Mumbai Hawkers Rue HC Order

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The last one week has been tough for Hirabai Maruti, a 60-year-old vegetable vendor, who has been selling her produce outside Mumbai’s Borivali station for over 20 years. After the Bombay High Court banned hawkers from setting up stalls on foot-over-bridges and within 150 metres of railway stations, Hirabai is now out of business.

Sixty-year-old Hirabai has already been fined once for violating the Bombay High Court order.
Sixty-year-old Hirabai has already been fined once for violating the Bombay High Court order.
(Photo: The Quint)
Earlier, we used to earn Rs 500 to Rs 600 a week, but nothing for the last one week. Now our house runs on the ration we get from our card. We can’t buy anything from outside.
Hirabai Maruti, hawker

Once packed with vendors, streets outside Mumbai’s local stations have now been almost completely cleared to make way for commuters. With business coming to a standstill, lakhs of hawkers are now appealing to the BMC and the Maharashtra government to first designate them to a hawking zone and then implementing the High Court order.

The 2014 Act passed by the government and the Supreme Court order that a vending committee should be started were not implemented yet. Till a hawkers’ zone is designated, we shouldn’t be moved. Sometimes it’s our fault as well. Some people try to set up extra stalls and this creates problems for pedestrians, but there should be a solution to this and alternative arrangements must be made.
Ahmed Tamboli, hawker   
Ahmed Tamboli wraps up his spread after spotting a BMC official.
Ahmed Tamboli wraps up his spread after spotting a BMC official.
(Photo: The Quint)

According to the BMC, Mumbai has at least 1,28,000 hawkers and only 15,000 are licensed. However, hawkers’ unions claim that the number of street vendors in the city is now nearly 3 lakh. At least 30 percent of them are women.

In 2007, the civic body had identified hawking zones for only 23,000 hawkers across the city. In the last 10 years, many of these places have seen infrastructure coming up. According to our estimate, Mumbai has up to 3 lakh hawkers. Where will these people sit? How will they carry out their business? These zones should be identified immediately. To discuss this, we are trying to meet BMC officials.
Shashank Rao, president, Mumbai Hawkers’ Union

Despite the crackdown, 36-year-old Sunita sets up a makeshift stall outside Andheri station. With an eye out for BMC officials who regularly patrol the station, she sells blanket covers to pedestrians. While she does acknowledge that she is violating the High Court order, she says she’s left with no other option.

“This is the only business that we do to feed our entire family. I have an ailing mother-in-law, three children to feed, if I don’t sell this then how will we manage? We sit here for two minutes and then as soon as we see police coming, we run. All the women selling here do the same thing,” says Sunita.

Mumbaikars, however, have mixed opinions about the ban on hawkers.

“Areas around the station are crowded all the time, it’s good that the hawkers won’t be crowding it further,” said Onkar Redkar, a bank employee at Lower Parel.

However, another office goer, Prachi Kadam, said, “Like many others, I too depend on the hawkers outside the station for my breakfast because they sell cheap and hygienic food. With them not around anymore, it’s tough for us too.”

Cameraperson: Sanjoy Deb and Yashpal Singh

Editor: Veeru Mohan

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