Hawkers have taken over this footpath on Jawaharlal Nehru Road. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta
Environment activist Subhash Dutta has moved the high court against the state government for dragging its feet on the promised hawker policy.
In the petition filed on Friday, Dutta alleged that the government had been giving “false assurances” to the court for years. He has made the urban development department and the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) parties to the case.
“For three years, the government has been telling the court that it had made corrections to the draft National Hawkers Policy prepared by the Centre and sent it for the Union government’s approval,” Dutta said.
“On March 28 last year, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation lawyer had informed the court that his client, after holding talks with the leaders of hawkers’ unions and the state government, had formulated a scheme, which would be announced by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee soon. Since then a year has passed but the government has done nothing,” he added.
Mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya said: “I am not aware of any such announcement by the chief minister. We are waiting for the National Hawkers Policy. Once such a policy is formulated by the Union government, it will be mandatory for the state governments to follow it.”
He added: “Our problem is more serious. We have to take some measures soon in this regard.”
A law department official, however, said: “The hawker policy has taken a backseat with the elections coming up.”
The hawker issue came under the high court scanner in 2005 when Dutta moved a petition on traffic problems in the city. The activist had submitted several photographs depicting how hawkers were disrupting traffic in the central business district.
Dutta had mentioned that hawkers had captured footpaths of eight major roads in the city. “Not only footpaths, the hawkers are now encroaching on the carriageways by dumping goods. The flow of traffic has thus been seriously affected, leading to jams and accidents,” he alleged.
The high court on June 23, 2006, had directed the CMC and the police to remove hawkers from Brabourne Road, Kali Krishna Tagore Street, Kalakar Street, NS Road, Strand Road, Rabindra Sarani, Mahatma Gandhi Road and AJC Bose Road.
“Three years have passed but the state agencies still haven’t carried out the court order. On the same date, the court had asked government to formulate a scheme to rehabilitate hawkers,” said Dutta.