Finally, the authorities have stitched together a plan and drawn up a tentative timeline to handle the politically sensitive issue of hawker eviction and rehabilitation.
In high court on Wednesday, advocate general Balai Ray unveiled some of the salient features of the roadmap, drawn up by the state government and the Calcutta Municipal Corporation.
From earmarking hawker-free zones to setting specific trading time on pavements, from banning issue of fresh licences for trading on pavements to offering rehabilitation to displaced hawkers — the authorities have worked out a detailed policy on hawker eviction (see box).
“It is modelled on the National Hawker policy… We have sent our draft proposals to the Centre for approval and expect a reply within a month,” said Ray, informing the court that the implementation of the policy will start after two months.
The matter came up during the hearing of a case on clogging of major roads — filed by environment activist Subhas Dutta — due to poor traffic management in the heart of the city.
Following the advocate general’s declaration, the division bench of Justice Pinaki C. Ghosh and Justice Biswanath Somadder asked the government and the CMC to submit a blueprint of the plan on removal of hawkers and their rehabilitation on receiving the seal of approval from the Centre.
“We want that there should be a uniform policy for relocation of hawkers from the city roads and pavements. So, we are adjourning the matter relating to hawker problem in the city for two months,” observed the bench.
Tackling the takeover of pavements by hawkers and the consequent clogging of carriageways have always posed challenges to the authorities.
At last count, November 2006, the hawker population in Calcutta was 2.75 lakh-plus.
“We want some of the city roads to be free of hawkers while hawkers can be allowed on some stretches… Our government has made some additions and alterations in the draft national policy for the resolution of the hawker problem in the city,” said Ray.
According to him, the government had tried its best to remove hawkers from busy stretches like Brabourne Road and Park Street but failed.
“Police conducted regular raids, but soon after that the hawkers would return to the pavements. It is impossible to put 10,000 police on this job,” explained the advocate general.
Ray also informed the court that the government’s efforts to rehabilitate hawkers by making alternative arrangements have failed due to poor footfall of buyers at new locations.
The judges also asked Dutta, the petitioner, to unite non-government organisations and collect money to ensure proper rehabilitation of hawkers.
“We have given such proposals, but first the government has to come out with a definite policy on the eviction and rehabilitation of hawker,” stressed Dutta.