With the Pujas barely seven weeks away, it’s time for the pavements to be cleaned up, yet again. The Subrata Mukherjee-led Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has decided to carry out the next edition of the hawker-eviction drive to “clear the path for pedestrians”.
Saturday night’s crackdown between the Ballygunge outpost and Gol Park was just the curtain raiser.
“Unlike the former CPM-led board, we will carry out operations during the day and confiscate wares of the encroachers,” said Mukherjee on Saturday.
Before leaving for South Africa on Sunday, he held a meeting with municipal commissioner Debasis Som and chief engineer (conservancy) Arun Sarkar and asked them to carry out the drive with an emphasis on the central business district areas.
“What is of concern are the little temples on the pavements,” said assistant director, conservancy, Swapan Mohapatra.
On Saturday night, the CMC demolished around six roadside temples near Gol Park. The idols were immersed in the Adi Ganga and cash boxes and utensils were deposited with the police, said Mohapatra.
The fallout of Operation Sunshine, almost four years ago, to clear Brabourne Road, Gariahat Road, Rashbehari Avenue, Bentinck Street, Surya Sen Street, Beadon Street, Harish Mukherjee Road and Elliot Road of encroachers, has been the advent of new hawkers.
“The fresh lot has even created permanent structures to establish its business. Pedestrians have been largely inconvenienced because of this,” said a civic official.
Corporation staff, who took part in Operation Sunshine, said it was amazing how politically-backed encroachers continue to defy orders. “It is illegal to allow hawkers on the pavements as Sections 371 and 372 of the CMC Act, 1981, do not permit trading on road,” an official said.
Earlier, when the Trinamul board in the CMC had taken a move to drive out hawkers from the Esplanade area, party chairperson Mamata Banerjee had forced the mayor to change his decision.
The CMC has even spent around Rs 2 crore to construct stalls at Galiff Street and Kalighat to rehabilitate about 1,000 hawkers who had been displaced in Operation Sunshine. Barring the 200-odd hawkers of Gariahat and about a 100 in Entally, none of the others had moved into the new stalls.
Hawker Sangram Committee president Shaktiman Ghosh reacted to the proposed drive: “It is not possible for us to accept rehabilitation in phases. There should be a permanent solution to this.”