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So long sunshine, hello hawkers
This (return of hawkers) will solve many problems
- Bikash Bhattacharya

Calcutta, Feb. 22: Almost 10 years after it was launched in a blaze of publicity, the sun today went down on Operation Sunshine, the biggest drive to clear the city’s pavements of hawkers.

At a meeting chaired by mayor Bikash Bhattacharya, the Left Front-dominated board of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation decided to sanction the presence of hawkers on all pavements across the city.

It has been decided that hawkers would now be allowed to occupy a third of the pavements along all streets. But they would not be allowed to occupy space within a 50-metre radius of road crossings and build any structures.

“This will solve many problems at one go,” Bhattacharya said. “It will provide hawkers with a means of livelihood, it will ensure they do not occupy the entire pavement and we can monitor the quality of the goods they sell.”

Bhattacharya said this would come into effect from April, just before the Assembly elections, expected in May.

A steering committee, to be headed by former police commissioner Tushar Talukdar, will be formed to implement the decision, with representatives from hawkers’ associations and police and civic officials, other than the mayor.

Police commissioner Prasun Mukherjee met the mayor today to work out the details.

The hawkers had unofficially made a comeback in the five years the Trinamul Congress ruled the civic body.

The Left-ruled current municipality is making this official, though the decision is in total conflict with the Buddhdadeb Bhattacharjee government’s efforts to tidy up the city to attract investors.

In October 1996, another Left-headed civic board had launched the most ambitious drive to clear the city’s pavements. Civic officials had moved in with police and bulldozers and demolished all structures put up by hawkers on 21 thoroughfares, including Gariahat Road, Brabourne Road, Shyambazar, Sealdah, Diamond Harbour Road and Hatibagan.

Kanti Ganguly, who as member, mayor-in-council (conservancy), had spearheaded Operation Sunshine along with transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, said: “What we had done was for the good of Calcutta, to change the image of the city and clear the pavements for the pedestrians. However, if a decision has been taken to change that decision, I hope the people who are doing it also keep the city’s well-being in mind.”

Chakraborty was not available for comment.

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