Why Allow Street Vendors near State Bank to Use ‘Walkway’, and Make Pedestrians Use ‘Roadway’?

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Why Allow Street Vendors near State Bank to Use ‘Walkway’, and Make Pedestrians Use ‘Roadway’?

Mangaluru: Are the city’s footpaths for pedestrians? Just look around the city to get the answer! Mangaluru’s policymakers are known for trumpeting the achievements in high levels of human development indices under the hubris of Smart City model of development. Not withstanding these accomplishments, Mangaluru City Corporation has an abysmal record when it comes to basic amenities such as proper walkways, hygienic public comfort stations and barrier-free environment for the physically challenged. The City is crying for good footpaths that can be trusted by pedestrians. Even though the city lack enough footpaths while the condition of the existing structures, to say the least, are in a deplorable situation.

Lack of overall planning, maintenance and negligence are the hallmarks of walkways in the city. Regarding some of the footpaths in the City, Only sports persons can take out the “hop-step-and-jump and triple jump” walk through them. Despite being hailed as the fastest growing Smart City, Mangaluru does not have properly designed and constructed footpaths. The drainage covered with concrete slabs are generally used as roads are narrow. The city has such improper and uneven walkways along the entire stretch of the City. Mangaluru is not having a single walkway which is properly designed. The gradient of footpaths should facilitate easy and comfortable walking for the elderly and the physically challenged. But here, the sidewalks are uneven, very narrow and are broken at several points and never help pedestrians.

Pedestrians are forced to walk on the non-existent footpaths. The ongoing Smart City development works have added to pedestrians’ woes. Most footpaths along its corridor have been broken and not repaired yet. Another issue is the deteriorated concrete covers over canals and water drainage at many parts of the city. Traders/illegal street vendors encroaching footpaths and the unauthorized parking of vehicles also push pedestrians out. So among the many footpaths taken over by street vendors, now added to its credit is the footpath stretch on the State Bank Road opposite to Fish Market. The funny part is that earlier the street vendors where doing the business on the road side, but now they have moved out from the street, and MCC and City Cops have given them a new place to carry on with their money-making business- and their new place is the “FOOTPATH?”.

Vegetable/fruit vendors have found permanent rent-free space on the pavement. These Vendors on the pavement, who don’t have to pay rent, and other utilities payments, have found greater patronage than the established shops. This has in some places prompted even big stores to extend their shops onto the footpath to keep vendors away from their doorstep. Similar scenarios are found in neighbourhoods across the city, be it residential or commercial. Most pavements are out of bounds for pedestrians. So much so that after driving, walking is probably the most difficult task to accomplish in the city. Residents’ associations, citizens and activists have tried to bring the issue to the notice of authorities, but little has been done to rectify the problem. Most citizens point to the inability of the local authorities concerned to address the issue.

It has happened few times in the past, – where Mangaluru City Corporation does a surprise raid on illegal petty shops and evict them using earth-movers (JCB), police force and man-power on the State Bank road stretch. And within few hours or a day, the same petty shop owners are back into their illegal trade. Few days days ago, MCC evicted all the illegal street vendors near State Bank area, Central Market area, and few other places- but within few hours they were once again back on the streets continuing their trade. This makes one think, what’s the point, where MCC at one point evicts these street vendors, and after few hours or a day later they are all back into same illegal vending business. Seems like a drama. Also seems like street vendors are playing hide-n-seek with MCC- when they get the news that there is a raid that day, they hide themselves with their items- and once the MCC does it rounds and leaves-they set up their stalls again. Laws should be enforced strictly, not just for a day or two ?

Even though the MCC had provided these vendors with a hawking place, which was earlier used by Yakshagana artists to stage their performances during the weekends, has now proved to be a waste of space and money, since the street vendors have decided to stick to footpaths to sell their fruits and vegetables. If you look at the new hawking place arranged by the MCC for the street vendors at the cost of few lakhs of rupees of tax payers money, there are hardly any street vendors instead a few beggars have been occupying the spots by beggars and homeless. What a sheer waste of tax payers money gone down the drain? These street vendors have been too demanding nor do they care for MCC.

And now they have once again won the battle- they have been given the footpath to do their business, and unfortunately pedestrians have to use the road- silly but true? Was it right on the part of the Cops or the MCC officials to come up with this stupid idea, you be the judge and give the answer. Absolutely NOT SMART decision to make street vendors use the footpath, just because they were a menace for parking of vehicles. Now the vehicles have space to park on this stretch of the road, but pedestrians have to take the risk walking on the road.

So once again, the question to be raised is Will hawking zones solve the problem? Activists say that there is an urgent need to protect pedestrian infrastructure. One citizen said We cannot have hawkers at the cost of pedestrians. But, at the same time, the small shop-owners need to be protected. The best way is to create hawking zones across the city and reclaim pavements for pedestrians,” Probably nothing can be achieved without a mandate and a budget, “There is no compromise on pedestrian safety. We have been trying to make footpaths accessible to pedestrians. We have been carrying out drives to remove encroachments across the city. We have been undertaking a detailed survey of hawkers to provide them with identity cards. We have also met them several times to identify locations to create hawking zones, but they are stubborn and non-cooperative.” said one MCC Official.

In such a situation it becomes necessary and vital for the local municipal authorities to frame laws and thrust them to manage the behaviour of the society. One such concern is that of street hawking in large cities. These activities disrupt the smooth functioning of the city in several ways but are difficult to regulate as they involve a large section of the society. Moreover, this population is a vote bank for political groups and a good source for harassment by the public authorities. MCC and other concerned authorities have to come up with a plan to relocate all these illegal vendors to a location which will not bother the city life, traffic and the earnings of those shop owners who run their business legally by paying taxes, rent and other utility expenses. These street vendors have to be moved out from the footpath-period!

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