Hawkers Have Taken Over Mumbai’s Streets, No Room For Pedestrians: Bombay High Court

Unauthorized hawkers have virtually taken over every street in the city leaving no place for pedestrians, the Bombay High Court has observed, asking why ordinary citizens should not get the treatment that only “VVIPs” seem to get.

A division bench of Justices M S Sonak and Kamal Khata in an order of June 25 said the problem has reached “alarming proportions”, and the government and civic body cannot take their own “sweet time” to deal with it.

A copy of the order became available on Tuesday.

The high court had last year taken suo motu note of the issue of illegal and unauthorized hawkers and vendors in the city, and initiated this petition.

The court has issued several directions to the Maharashtra government and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation but their implementation continues to be a casualty, the judges said.

“The hawkers and street vendors have virtually taken over the street lanes and bylanes. There is no place for people to walk on the footpaths,” the HC said.

Pedestrians have to navigate between unauthorised hawkers and haphazardly parked vehicles, it noted.

“Merely because the members of the public are tolerant or possibly fed up with complaining any more to the civic authorities does not reduce the magnitude of this problem or their immense sufferings….The public cannot be made to wait endlessly and keep tolerating this intolerable situation,” it added.

Whenever the civic body conducts an anti-encroachment drive, hawkers and vendors return within few minutes, the high court said, adding that when some VVIP visits the city, all roads and footpaths are cleared and sometimes even potholes are filled up.

“Do not the law-abiding citizens with whose money these VIPs function deserve the same treatment? Isn’t it their right to insist that laws are obeyed and, if not voluntarily obeyed, enforced by the executive arm?” the HC asked.

The petition was initiated two years back but the issue of illegal/ unlicensed street vendors multiplies daily, the court said, adding, “the state and BMC cannot take their own sweet time on one pretext or the other.” The court asked the BMC, police and the state government to file affidavits stating what action they have taken against illegal hawkers.

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