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Glare on hawkers and car chaos
- Court seeks status report with time frame for pavements and traffic flow

After bothering citizens, encroachment on pavements and poor traffic management in Calcutta became bugbears for the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government on Monday.

With reference to an 11-year-old case, the division bench of Chief Justice S.S. Nijjar and Justice P.K. Ghosh directed the state government to file a report on hawker takeover of footpaths in four weeks.

Hearing a petition on encroachment on Brabourne Road, filed by a city-based voluntary organisation, the high court had asked the state government in 1996 to file a status report on footpaths. More than a decade after the order, the same directive was issued on Monday afternoon.

The same division bench, while hearing a different petition, asked the state government to state within 10 days its plans — and also a time frame — to smoothen vehicular movement along city roads.

Environment activist Subhas Dutta had filed a petition in June 2003, alleging that a poor traffic management system was the main reason behind chaos on city roads. He had also alleged that flow of traffic along eight major roads in the central business district was suffering due to hawkers occupying the pavements and parts of the carriageway.

In the same year, a high court-appointed committee corroborated Dutta’s allegations and suggested removal of hawkers from the pavements.

The government took two years to inform the court in June 2005 that it was working on a uniform rehabilitation package for hawkers and a pause button was pressed on the politically-sensitive solution to Calcutta’s traffic chaos.

In the same affidavit, the government had stated that it had constituted a committee to formulate a comprehensive strategy for smoother traffic flow in the city. From spacing out bus shelters to installing a modern signalling system, the committee came up with a number of suggestions.

But as no action has been taken for around two years, the court has now asked the government to come out with all the details — along with a time frame — of its traffic management plan.

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