State policy remains on paper

The government and BMC are accusing each other of not implementing a hawking policy adopted by the state in 2007-08.

CM Prithviraj Chavan assured Congress and NCP delegates Thursday: "The government will look into all aspects related to citizens and hawkers while implementing the policy." A senior BMC official countered, "Whenever we started a drive to remove illegal hawkers or structures, there was protest and political pressure." Former corporator-turned-BJP MLC Ashish Shellar said, "While it is true the government passed the policy on hawking in 2007-08, amendments in the Act under section 313 remain on paper. In 2009, we at BMC approved bylaws related to hawking with suggestions and recommendations. However, the government, which had to amend the Act on the issue, appeared reluctant."

Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam said, "The primary role of the government was to make the policy on national lines as directed by Supreme Court. The implementing agency is BMC. If they are so worried, what steps have they taken in the last four years. BMC has even stopped registering hawkers. Nobody seems to know their exact number."A Tata Institute of Social Sciences survey conducted in 2005 put the number at 3 lakh. Krishna Hegde of Congress, however, said the number had risen to 5 lakh and the hawkers could not be rendered workless overnight.

The BMC figure is 23,000, as registrations were discontinued two decades ago. Chavan and home minister R R Patil are worried the hawker issue might turn into a North Indians versus sons of the soil battle post the January 24 proposed demonstration at Azad Maidan. While Congress and NCP are supporting the demonostration, Sena-MNS and BJP are opposed to it. Nirupam argues, "The primary reason for non-implementation of the policy is the revenue, Rs 1,000 crore, generated every year from 'hafta' extorted from illegal hawkers by civic officials and police. " Sena MP Sanjay Raut said, "The hawker menace is a creation of Congress leaders who wanted to build a vote bank." Hegde said, "You cannot take away livelivehood of 5 lakh hawkers overnight. It is not just an issue of North Indians. Of the 5 lakh hawkers, at least 1.5 lakh are Marathi."

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