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Unions on warpath over hawker eviction

Calcutta, April 18: One union moved court and the others vowed to do so, a day after the high court ordered the eviction of all unauthorised hawkers from stations and train compartments.

The Intuc-affiliated Railway Hawkers’ Union sought a revision of the order.

“The court should also direct Eastern Railway to issue a temporary licence to 45,000 hawkers until alternative arrangements are made for them,” the petition said.

It claimed about eight lakh people across Bengal were directly dependent on railway hawkers’ income. “If the hawkers are evicted, the future of eight lakh people will become uncertain,” the petition said.

Responding to a public interest litigation by advocate Anjan Bhattacharya, who travels by local trains everyday and narrated to the court the commuters’ plight because of the hawkers, the division bench of Justices P.C. Ghosh and B. Somadder told Eastern Railway to comply with the Railways Act, 1989.

The rule does not authorise any person to hawk goods or beg in railway compartments and on platforms without a licence.

Commenting on today’s petition, Eastern Railway counsel Uttam Majumdar said: “The court can’t ask the railway to go against the Railways Act.”

“The order was merely a reminder to the railways. Until and unless the act is declared ultra vires, the court cannot ask it to not take action against unauthorised hawkers,” he added.

However, another advocate said he would challenge the validity of Section 144 of the Railways Act, which bars hawking and begging in railway establishments.

“A hawkers’ union has approached me. My petition should be ready in a couple of days. Considering the socio-economic condition of our country, such laws should be struck down,” said Subrata Mukhopadhyay.

Eastern Railway has not received a copy of the order yet. “So, we are yet to decide our plan of action,” a senior official said.

A railway official had yesterday promised action against the unlicensed hawkers and the government pledged “all necessary help”.

The Railway Hawkers’ Union will block tracks for an hour tomorrow to protest against the ruling.

The secretary of the Citu-led Paschim Banga Railway Hawkers’ Union said it would “move the high court as well as the Supreme Court” against yesterday’s order. “We had a meeting yesterday, which decided to move both courts,” Nepaldeb Bhattacharya said.

Citu has called a meeting on Tuesday, where “all central trade unions, including Intuc, will be invited for talks to plan the course of action.

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