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Free roads or court trouble
- Hawkers like cancer, says chief justice

Clear the pavements, free the roads ' and do it fast.

Calcutta High Court on Friday directed the state government, police and the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) to submit reports within a month on what steps they have taken regarding hawker congestion and traffic chaos on city streets.

'The hawker menace is growing like cancer. It is impossible for people to walk on the roads, forget about footpaths,' observed the division bench of Chief Justice V.S. Sirpurkar and Soumitra Sen, on a petition filed by environmentalist Subhas Dutta in 2004.

'All kinds of interests are involved in this matter,' the bench observed.

On hawker encroachment, the court asked the government, police and the CMC to mention in their affidavit ' to be submitted by June 16 ' whether the national hawker policy is being followed in the state and what has been done so far to evict hawkers from pavements.

In case hawkers are to be allowed, the report must clarify under what conditions, along with the number of hawkers in the city, the stretches occupied by them and from when.

Responding to the court's observations, government counsel Debabrata Roy said 2,896 hawkers had been arrested since January 2006, a figure the court dismissed as 'chicken feed'.

Regarding traffic conditions, the three respondents have been asked to explain why auto traffic signal systems are not being followed like other metros. They must also mention whether it can be ensured that buses stop at designated bus stops.

The court sought details of the number of road accidents in the past year, what action had been taken against traffic offenders and the policy followed by the CMC regarding parking spaces.

In his petition, Subhas Dutta had argued that traffic movement was being hampered because of pavement encroachment by hawkers and shop owners, particularly on eight stretches ' Strand Road, Brabourne Road, Kali Krishna Tagore Street, Rabindra Sarani, Netaji Subhas Road, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Kalakar Street and AJC Bose Road.

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