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BMC’s Biggest-Ever Crackdown on Illegal Hawkers: Illegal Hawkers Will Find it Four Times Harder to Set Up Shop Again


Civic body set to increase the fine from Rs 1,200 to Rs 5,000 to discourage them from returning to the same spot again and again

It is going to be fourfold tougher for hawkers and street food vendors operating without the administration’s nod to spring up everywhere, for the civic body will discipline them with a fine of Rs 5,000 instead of the current Rs 1,200. The action, sterner than any the past few years have seen, wraps up the latest of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s drives launched last week to clear up public spaces that have been dominated by a clutter of these pop-up shops that have edged out pedestrians.Municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta confirmed the decision to escalate the fine. “We are looking at the legal framework to see how the service charge [fine] may be increased.Once that is clear, we will go ahead,” Mehta told Mirror.

Mehta hopes to concentrate the BMC’s effort on clearing footpaths leading to railway stations and other congested locations.

Last week’s clear-out started with over 50 intractable operators at Fashion Street, south Mumbai’s street-shopping venue, being slapped with notices voiding their licences after they snubbed a series of evacuation notices, overstepped the specified space of one square metre, and disregarded a 24-hour deadline to reverse an array of breaches.

The action was initiated under section 313 (B) of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, 1888, which allows for revocation of hawkers’ licences if they snub norms.

The three principal violations that civic officials counted are: the licence holder entrusting the business to another operator; hawkers raising clunky bamboo or iron stalls restricting pedestrians; sale of unsanctioned commodities.

The drive will expand northwards of the city, eliminating violators after licence checks.

The BMC hopes to mount this offensive against illegitimate hawkers with the added help of employees transferred from the 3,500-strong Octori department who will be redundant once the unified Goods and Services Tax comes in force next month.

Officials said jacking up the fine will zap hawkers of the resources to spring up again.

“At the moment, we levy a fine of Rs 1,200 to return the goods we have seized. Vendors will find it difficult to set up their stalls if they have to shell out Rs 5,000 to get their stuff back,” said a senior official from the Removal of Encroachments (RE) department. The fine hasn’t been increased for decades, he said, necessitating the recent whip from the BMC.

In the past six months, over 1.12 lakh illegal food vendors and hawkers in the city’s 24 wards have been taken to task at the behest of municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta. During the crackdown, goods worth Rs 30 crore were seized, leading to a recovery of Rs 2.03 crore in fines.

BJP legislator Ameet Satam who had suggested the fine hike, had met BMC boss Mehta on Friday to discuss measures to rupture the nexus of tacit civic officials and hawkers. “Footpaths are meant for walking and not hawking,” Satam said.

He also suggested cooking and food stalls on the streets, which are a health and fire hazard, must be eliminated. “There should be daily action against illegal food vendors,” he said.

At a review meeting on Saturday, Mehta asked his assistant commissioners to be ruthless in their approach to illegal street food vendors, citing concerns that the city may witness a rise in typhoid and hepatitis cases due to unbridled food vendors working without licences.

The BMC has long been trying to reclaim the spaces meant for citizens to walk on from the fanned-out ware of street vendors. In 2014, it introduced the Pedestrian First policy, announcing division of footpaths into three categories -a wide area for pedestrians, followed by a furniture zone for utilities, fire hydrants, metre boxes, stalls and so on; and a dead zone, for entrances to establishments.

The same year, in step with a Supreme Court directive asking it to implement the National Hawker Policy, 2009, the civic body launched a survey of hawkers, and concluded that hawkers can constitute 2.5 per cent of the total population. as such, Mumbai can afford to have 3 lakh registered hawkers, but there are only 18,000 who hold a licence at present.

Source:  Mumbai Mirror

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