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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Citizens at risk as hawkers prevent access to rly stns


Patients Find It Difficult To Reach Hosps From Platforms

    Does a local problem like the hawker menace need to h ave t h e s t at e home minister's personal intervention to be solved? The easy resolution to the problem near the Dadar station and the lack of any solution at every other station area in the city seems to point to that. 
    What happened at Goregaon on Saturday, say residents across the city, is replicated at the busiest station areas across the city. From Borivli in the north to Parel in the heart of the island city, hawkers choke the narrow roads that lead away from the stations. 
    The Parel example is possibly the worst in the city. The station is less than half a kilometre from Mumbai's hospital hub. The zone has institutions like the Tata Memorial, TB, Wadia and KEM hospitals, where patients from all over the country pour in. But residents say not even a wheelchair, leave alone ambulances, can move from the station to the hospitals in the zone. 
    "It is cumbersome to walk near the station area in Parel. A patient on a wheelchair finds it difficult to enter this side due to the dense presence of illegal hawkers. There is no concept of footpaths and neither a fire engine nor an ambulance can enter. Considering that there are four hospitals in the vicinity, it is a serious issue," said Avinash Dhole, a Parel resident. 
    From Lucky Junction to Bandra station, the footpaths have been completely taken over by furniture sellers, said Anil Joseph, chairperson, Perry Road Residents' Association. "People cannot walk on these footpaths. The furniture sellers have actually turned their stalls into illegal showrooms." 
    Near Bandra station, it seems as if cobblers, juice makers and kebab sellers own the vicinity. "The approach roads to the station and the area in front of it are inundated with hawkers. This has been the situation for the past decade, except for a brief period when DCP KMM Prasanna was in charge and genuinely took action," Joseph said. 
    Not that there is no hope. At Dadar, the authorities were able to effectively deal with the problem. The case is an example of how things work if there is political will. An assault on a senior journalist in April and home minister R R Patil's subsequent intervention made the police and the BMC take up eviction of illegal hawkers around Dadar station on a war footing. 
    "We chalked out a programme on how to deploy vehicles. We prepared a duty chart for civic officials. Then we identified the main problem area," said assistant municipal commissioner (G-North) D Jain. "We learnt about godowns where goods were stored illegally and confiscated the ware. We removed 10 trucks of material. The unauthorized godowns were demolished. We got rid of the source."


MENACING THE STREETS: Hawkers near the Parel railway station (above). An illegal stall outside a police station in Bandra (below). Congestion on a typical road in Chembur (bottom)

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