Supreme Court’s stern directive that no matter what, the ‘sealing’ drive against unauthorized shops and buildings in Delhi must continue, is welcome for many reasons. It will not only unclog the city’s arteries, it will also bring in a semblance of order in the way the municipal authorities conduct their business.
This perhaps acted in his mind when Kolkata’s mayor announced 2 days back that hawkers will be removed from the city roads. Nothing happened yesterday, so one is feeling compelled to believe that like on earlier occasions, nothing indeed will happen this time too.
That hawkers are impediments to free pedestrian movement needs no iteration. Despite obvious danger of pedestrians’ walking on road to avoid congested pavements, the powers-that-be simply refuses to acknowledge the problem since they believe it is more important to allow a few hundred hawkers’ to earn their living than the plight of countless walkers on the street. One suspects there is more to it than what appears on surface.
In this context, Vir Sanghvi’s column, Big cities, small minds, presents a poignant picture. He gets it right when he says that when slum-dwellers and those who make pavements their home are removed forcibly, it fails to stir us, even as we reserve our sympathy for traders and commercial establishments who also encroach upon public property.
Kolkata’s situation is typical because it is not the first time that there is a talk to remove hawkers. Several years back, the pavements on main roads were indeed freed by removing hawkers, otherwise the Gariahat flyover wouldn’t have come up at the place where once there was hawkers’ boulevard.
The good work could not be sustained, and today the pavements have again gone back to hawkers’ control. It is now up to KMC to pay heed to Supreme Court’s Delhi ruling and restore the roads to the pedestrians. Because after all they belong to us.