Monday, 30th October 2017

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Hawker menace on pavement

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By - MEGHDEEP BHATTACHARYYA
  • Published 21.07.09
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Biswajit Biswas, a 41-year-old employee of a private company, was punched and kicked by hawkers when, while walking down an encroached footpath off Bentinck Street, his foot touched merchandise displayed by a stall-owner.

Metro walked through some other hawker-infested areas that have turned a nightmare for pedestrians

Brabourne Road

Hawkers have encroached on most footpaths in BBD Bag, but Brabourne Road, especially the stretch between the Tea Board and the Canning Street intersections, seems to be the worst affected.

“It’s difficult to walk three paces without stopping. Most of us have to walk down the carriageway, hindering vehicular movement,” said 38-year-old Samir Nath, who works in a bank in the area.

“It is a great location. Why would we shift elsewhere? Let the authorities sort the bigger civic problems,” said Vinay Sahu, a 44-year-old hawker selling T-shirts.

JL Nehru Road

The footpaths on JL Nehru Road are broader and better maintained than in most parts of the city. But hawkers, and not pedestrians, enjoy the benefits, especially between Lenin Sarani and Sudder Street.

Weekends and holidays are the worst with hawkers and their customers occupying entire footpaths.

“The hawkers have left barely a foot or two near Bidhan Market. I feel suffocated while walking the stretch in summer,” said 22-year-old MBA student Stephanie Lai.

“This is the best location in the city. I’d take a bullet to save my stall here,” said 28-year-old Afzal Sheikh, who sells jerseys near Bidhan Market.

Shyambazar crossing

Hawkers rule both footpaths of Bidhan Sarani, Bhupen Bose Avenue, BT Road, RG Kar Road and APC Road, which converge at the five-point crossing, forcing pedestrians on to the carriageway. The congestion is unbearable during festive seasons.

A traffic police officer blamed hawkers for the chaos at the crossing. “How can we ask pedestrians to use the footpaths when they are occupied by hawkers?” he asked.

The illegal extension of the Shyambazar market on the northern flank of RG Kar Road poses serious problems for pedestrians and those waiting for buses. Vendors squat on both sides of the footpath while their customers occupy the space in between.

“With hundreds of people walking on the carriageway, drivers can’t always be blamed for mishaps here,” said Sudeshna Mukhopadhyay, a 20-year-old engineering student.

Bowbazar

Hawker encroachment is the pet peeve of pedestrians on both flanks of Bidhan Sarani and BB Ganguly Street.

Fruits, vegetables, flowers, grocery, stationery, junk jewellery, fast food — there are all types of stalls at Bowbazar.

“The area is hellish for pedestrians. With so many people using narrow carriageways, it’s a wonder why there aren’t more accidents here,” said 67-year-old Dhrubo Ray.

Bentinck Street

Nothing has changed at the spot where hawkers thrashed Biswas. They occupy more than 80 per cent of the area on the footpaths on Bentinck Street, between Esplanade and Mission Row. Since their wares are sprawled on the ground, a repeat of Wednesday’s incident is just waiting to happen.

“I was here when the incident occurred. Aftab (one of the two arrested on the basis of Biswas’s complaint) is my friend but I can’t defend him. Pedestrians are left with hardly any option, especially in the monsoon,” said a hawker, who did not wish to be identified.

Official word

Mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya condemned the attack on Biswas. “Hawkers hitting a pedestrian on such grounds cannot be tolerated. It is a serious offence,” he said.

“Hawkers are occupying more than a third of the pavement and that is why such incidents are taking place,” added Bhattacharyya.

The mayor promised prompt and stern action against hawkers who harass pedestrians.

A Citu leader said: “A hawker hitting a pedestrian is unacceptable. But given the conditions hawkers are forced to operate under, frustration can get the better of them.”

He added: “Why will hawkers shift from footpaths unless they are offered lucrative alternatives?”