Bombay High Court Raises Concern Over Hawkers Crowding Mumbai Streets

In a stark observation that highlights the ongoing struggle for space on Mumbai’s streets, the Bombay High Court has remarked that unauthorized hawkers have almost completely taken over, leaving scant room for pedestrians. This situation, the court noted, has escalated to “alarming proportions.”

During a session on June 25, Justices MS Sonak and Kamal Khata criticized the slow response of the Maharashtra government and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in addressing this issue, which was flagged by the court last year through a suo motu action. The court lamented that despite multiple directives aimed at curbing the proliferation of illegal vendors, effective implementation remains elusive.

The justices pointed out the severe encroachments on the city’s streets and bylanes, making it nearly impossible for pedestrians to navigate without having to dodge both hawkers and irregularly parked vehicles. “The public cannot be expected to endlessly tolerate this intolerable situation,” they stated, emphasizing the significant distress it causes to city dwellers.

The court also highlighted the stark contrast in the city’s appearance and functionality during visits by VVIPs, noting that roads and footpaths are swiftly cleared, and even potholes are filled. This, according to the court, raises questions about the equal treatment of ordinary law-abiding citizens whose taxes fund these very VIPs.

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In a critical commentary on the recurring nature of the hawker problem, the court observed that even after anti-encroachment drives by the civic body, hawkers return within minutes, rendering such efforts futile. The bench also questioned the delay in action by state and city authorities, suggesting that excuses cannot justify the continued expansion of unauthorized vending activities.

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