Almost every stall on the footpaths in the Gariahat area was found flouting hawking rules during a survey launched by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) and police on Wednesday.
KMC rules say hawkers cannot occupy more than a third of the width of a pavement, cannot sit along both edges of a pavement and cannot sit with their wares on roads, an official of the civic body said.
The rules ban the use of plastic sheets and similar inflammable materials to cover the stalls.
The rules also specify that a stall cannot face the road and no part of the stall can encroach on the road.
The Telegraph found during the survey that all the rules were violated.
A police officer announced the rules from a hand-held loudhailer during the survey. Another policeman used a measuring tape to mark the point where the one-third space of the pavement allotted for hawkers ended.
“You cannot go beyond this line,” the officer kept saying to the hawkers.
Though termed a survey, Wednesday’s exercise was primarily aimed at informing the hawkers about the rules.
“They will get time to make changes. If they do not adhere to the rules, some action has to be taken against them,” said Shakti Mondal, a hawker leader and a member of Kolkata’s Town Vending Committee.
The committee comprises civic officials, hawkers and police officers, among others.
The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014, has empowered the town vending committee to take decisions about identification and regulation of hawkers.
The names of many of the hawkers the police spoke with on Wednesday did not figure on the list they carried.
The number of hawkers have increased manifold between then (in 2015, when a survey was carried out) and now. Many people who lost employment during Covid became hawkers. Besides, there are people who have a job but are still hawking. There are others who have been deployed by owners of stores,” said Mondal.
Hawkers were asked earlier, too, to remove plastic sheets but almost all stalls are still wrapped in plastic.
A cluster of stalls covered with plastic sheets, and occupying nearly half the width of the footpath, near the Gariahat crossing on Wednesday afternoon. Hawking rules say plastic sheets cannot be used and hawkers cannot occupy more than a third of the width of a footpath.
A fire that ravaged portions of Gurudas Mansion, a multi-storeyed building at the Gariahat junction, in January 2019 purportedly started from a stall on the footpath.
It was alleged that the fire rose up and engulfed the first floor of the building because of plastic sheets wrapping the adjacent stalls.
The building houses two popular sari shops — Traders Assembly and Adi Dhakeswari Bastralaya. Both were destroyed in the fire.
Mayor Firhad Hakim had then announced a ban on the use of plastic sheets by hawkers. The KMC and the police carried out a drive and tore apart some plastic sheets, but the crackdown soon lost steam and finally stopped and the pavements returned to square one.
A Kolkatan said such surveys and token actions were taken several times, but there has been no lasting change on the ground.
Wednesday’s survey started in front of The BSS school and covered hawkers on that pavement till near Gariahat police station.
The police carried a list of hawkers available with them. The list was prepared after the 2015 survey.
A source involved in the survey said only about 66 hawkers were covered on Wednesday.
“The area we have to cover spans from Ballygunge railway station in the east to the Rashbehari Avenue-Panditiya Road crossing in the west, and between The BSS in the north and Golpark in the south. The area is roughly 1.6sq km,” said an officer.
The Hatibagan and New Market areas will be surveyed next.
“We will complete the survey (covering all three places) by November 22. This is a pilot project. We want to do similar surveys in other parts of the city, too,” said Debashis Kumar, mayoral council member in charge of the KMC’s parks and squares department.