New Town, Sector V and the rest of the Bidhannagar civic area do not even have a town vending committee, which should have the powers to regulate hawkers and penalise them for not following rules, municipal affairs minister Firhad Hakim regretted on Friday.
The town vending committee — which is made up of civic officials, police, hawkers and elected representatives, among others — has the responsibility of balancing between the livelihood of hawkers and the right of movement of commuters.
Kolkata has a town vending committee though its effectiveness can be questioned given the fact that hawkers in most parts of the city continue to violate the rules. Yet, the formation of the committee is necessary because it is the sole authority to decide whether any place can be declared a “no-vending zone” or whether hawkers should be relocated from one stretch to another.
The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 — which was passed in the Parliament — has made it mandatory for all cities and towns to have their town vending committees. No action can be taken against hawkers without the nod of this committee.
“To rein-in hawkers, one must form the committee as a first step,” said a member of the town vending committee formed by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC).
“It is our failure that we have not been able to form town vending committees in New Town, Sector V and Bidhannagar,” Hakim told a gathering of hawkers near New Market on Friday.
Hakim told The Telegraph on Saturday that the committees should be formed soon.
An official of the municipal affairs department said the authorities in New Town, Sector V and Bidhannagar have been informed that they should form the committees soon.
Shaktiman Ghosh, a hawker leader, said that a survey conducted in 2019 identified 2,500 hawkers in New Town and 800 hawkers in Sector V. But no such survey was done in Bidhannagar, he said.
Officials of New Town Kolkata Development Authority (NKDA) and Nabadiganta Industrial Township Authority (NDITA), said one of the reasons why the committee has not been formed is their indecision on which hawker leader to keep in the committee.
“There are various rival factions of hawkers. If we keep one in the committee the others may raise objections. The government must tell us who would be hawker representatives in the committee,” said the official.
Krishna Chakraborty,the mayor of Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation, could not be reached for comment on Saturday.
The Telegraph has reported several times how hawkers have encroached on several footpaths in Salt Lake. The stretches around the Central Government Office (CGO) complex, near Karunamoyee have hawkers sitting on the pavement in an unregulated manner. The situation is similar in Sector V.
In New Town, hawkers have occupied the entire width of the pavement outside DLF building and even near the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Police, New Town.
Hawkers can be found stationed on cycling tracks along with their carts.
A set of rules framed for street vending by the state government say that hawkers should leave at least two-thirds width of pavements free for pedestrians, they should not set up stalls on roads, they should refrain from using plastic sheets and no stalls can be built facing a road.
The 2014 Act says that the powers of the vending committee include the power to “cancel the certificate of vending or suspend the same” if a street vendor is found to “breach of any of the conditions thereof or any other terms and conditions specified for the purpose of regulating street vending under this Act”.