Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Whose pavement is it, anyway?

Whose pavement is it, anyway?

K.C. Deepika
With hawkers setting shop on pavements, pedestrians have to walk on the road
The direction by Minister for Transport R. Ashok has also been implemented in part

Policymakers need to integrate hawkers in the scheme of things: expert

Space jam:Mobile eateries and hawkers leave little space for pedestrians on the pavement near Kempe Gowda bus-stand.
BANGALORE: Although pedestrian subways in and around Majestic are more or less free of hawkers after Transport Minister R. Ashok's recent direction to the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the pavements surrounding the Kempe Gowda Bus-stand are still packed with hawkers and mobile eateries. With hawkers occupying two-thirds of the space on the pavements, pedestrians have to fight for space on the road with vehicles.

A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Ashok paid a surprise visit to the area following complaints of nuisance being caused by hawkers. Directing the BBMP to evict the hawkers, Mr. Ashok had directed suspension of three BBMP engineers for their lapse. When The Hindu did a reality check, it appeared that the Minister's direction was implemented only in part for the pedestrians continued to face inconvenience with the pavements still occupied by hawkers.

“I was almost knocked down by a bus once near the entrance of the BMTC bus-stand as I had to walk on the road since the pavement had been occupied by an eatery,” said Chaitra H.A., a software engineer, who commutes by bus to Electronics City. Although the bridge connecting Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation terminal was freed from the hawkers' menace after the Minister's direction, a few vendors were conducting business in the subways connecting the bus terminals with the City Railway Station and the Sangam cinema despite the presence of security personnel. However, vendors were selling plastic toys on the move instead of squatting in the subway like they used to do earlier.

“The only hawker who is sitting at the entrance of the subway selling flowers has sought permission from the sub-inspector. Otherwise, we are not allowing anyone,” said a watch and ward personnel deployed by KSRTC.

When asked about the presence of a few hawkers in the subway, he chose to ignore them and showed the hawker-free pedestrian bridges instead. When the hawkers were asked about the ban on hawking in the subway, they too turned a deaf ear and continued calling out to prospective buyers.

Hawkers fined

Meanwhile, the watch and ward security personnel claimed that they were seizing the goods from the hawkers if they tried to sell them in the subway.

“If they violate the ban on hawking, they will have to cough up a penalty of Rs. 200 and their goods will be seized as well,” they said.

Safety hazard

The reason cited by the Government for the clearance drive was that hawkers posed a risk to pedestrians, especially at night. Chandralekha who was being pursued by a hawker to buy his wares, said it was a welcome move.

“Earlier, we could not even walk here. Now it is much better,” she said.

Experts believe the fault is in the planning as a number of pedestrians find it convenient to shop on their way. “Efforts to evict hawkers have also failed. Their socio-economic background forces them to come back. What policymakers need to do is integrate them in the scheme of things,” said Ashish Verma, Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering and associate faculty member of Centre for Infrastructure, Sustainable Transport and Urban Planning (CiSTUP), Indian Institute of Science (IISc).


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