KMC-police survey finds only a few among hawker applicants

Huge difference has led to suspicions that many stalls have changed hands since applications were sent to civic body

Subhajoy Roy Kolkata Published 09.01.23, 07:14 AM
Hawkers in Chowringhee Place on Sunday

Hawkers in Chowringhee Place on Sunday Picture by Gautam Bose

Of the 1,600-odd hawkers from Gariahat, New Market and Hatibagan who had applied to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation in 2015 for hawking certificates, a recent survey could only spot 50.

The huge difference has led to suspicions that many stalls have changed hands since the applications were sent to the civic body.


“It’s common for stalls or portions of a footpath where hawkers display their items to change hands against hefty payments,” said an officer of Kolkata police.

“Among those who man the stalls, many are employees. The stall owners work somewhere else and they put up stalls for additional income. When someone is unable to run a stall, another person takes that space, but only after paying a huge sum to the owner. The price of a small space runs into several lakhs of rupees.”

Debasish Kumar, mayoral council member in charge of the KMC’s parks and squares department, said one reason for so few of the applicants for hawking certificates having been spotted by the survey was that many people could not carry on with the business after the pandemic and new people came to occupy their stalls.

A hawker union leader said many hawkers had not applied for the certificate in 2015.

The survey has also found that the number of hawking stalls has increased manifold since 2015, validating the experience of many Kolkatans.

New stretches of footpaths have come to be occupied by hawkers, leaving almost no space for pedestrians.

A hawker union leader had earlier told The Telegraph that the survey had come across 1,128 stalls in Hatibagan in 2022, compared with the 350-odd applications from the north Kolkata pocket in 2015.

In Gariahat, 1,228 stalls have been counted, compared with 450 applications in 2015. In New Market, 1,044 stalls have been found, though only 800 hawkers from the central Kolkata shopping address had sent applications in 2015.

Kolkatans who frequent these shopping hubs said stalls had come up on stretches that were earlier free of hawkers.

“The footpath in front of the Traders Assembly store was unoccupied even a few years ago. But now it is filled with hawkers,” said a resident of Gariahat in south Kolkata.

“New stalls facing the road have come up at the southwest corner of the Gariahat crossing in the last three to four years.”

A regular visitor to New Market said the footpath outside Peerless Inn was empty five or six years ago. Now, it is full of hawkers.

A resident of Sovabazar said the stretch opposite Rupbani on Bidhan Sarani had become occupied in the last few years.

In all these places, hawkers have even encroached on portions of roads.

The Gariahat resident said that on several stretches of a footpath along Rashbehari Avenue, hawkers sat on both sides of the sidewalk, leaving space for only one person to walk through. “That is how the number of hawkers has increased,” he said.

The KMC recently gave its nod to hawkers to build a tin shade over their stalls, instead of tying plastic sheets.

Several Kolkatans have raised concerns about the move as they feel it will lend permanency to the stalls and the overhead shade will completely block the view of the buildings along the footpath.

Hawking rules framed by the state government say a stall cannot encroach on a road, hawkers cannot use plastic sheets (because they are flammable) and stalls cannot face road.

Follow us on: