|PEDDLE-PUSHERS: On Friday evening, who were these people blocking Mahatma Gandhi Road (top) and Brabourne Road (above)' Pictures by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
The next time you find your path blocked by hawkers on Brabourne Road and complain to the cops, they might say you're seeing things. For, according to Calcutta Police, there are no hawkers left on the pavements of the central business district.
This position was stated by Javed Shamim, deputy commissioner (traffic), on Friday, in an affidavit submitted before Calcutta High Court.
Shamim said in the affidavit that following court directives, police had conducted several anti-hawker drives to clear Brabourne Road, KK Tagore Street, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Netaji Subhas Road, CR Avenue, Kalakar Street, AJC Road and Strand Road.
Subhas Dutta, petitioner in the case relating to traffic snarls in the city's central business district, argued in court that the police affidavit was based on 'false and wrong information'.
The environment activist came to court armed with photographs calling the bluff of cop action and showing pavements overrun by hawkers.
But he did not get the opportunity to place the photographs before the court, as the division bench, comprising Chief Justice V.S. Sirpurkar and Justice A.K. Ganguly, adjourned the matter for two weeks.
Hours after Calcutta Police submitted the no-hawker affidavit, Metro visited Brabourne Road and Mahatma Gandhi Road.
There was no evidence of any police action against hawkers ' cops were, in fact, found 'guarding' vendors on pavements and even streets ' and everything from fruits to plastics, clothes to household items was on sale.
The hawkers on these two thoroughfares seemed oblivious to any threat to their place, but Shaktiman Ghosh, general secretary of the Hawker Sangram Samity, had a different tale to tell in court earlier in the day.
Seeking permission to be added as a party to the case, Ghosh, in his petition, condemned police action against members of his association and claimed that since the central government, in its national policy, had established the right to hawk, they must not be evicted.
'The petition by the hawkers' association is proof that the police had taken action against them,' claimed the government counsel.
On April 2, the green bench of Calcutta High Court had taken up the petition moved by environment activist Dutta, alleging that police negligence was responsible for prolonged traffic snarls in the heart of the city and demanding the eviction of unauthorised hawkers from arterial roads.
The court had constituted a committee, led by then deputy commissioner (traffic) Arun Sharma, to survey eight thoroughfares. A report was filed, on the basis of which police and the Calcutta Municipal Corporation were directed to remove unauthorised structures and hawkers to ease congestion in the business hub.