Kolkata: Three days after the Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation carried out its biggest hawker eviction drive at Salt Lake’s Karunamoyee four-point crossing, a few the evicted hawkers were seen back on the spot with umbrellas and four-wheeled kiosks. Civic authorities, however, said they were keeping a watch and will not allow the evicted to set up permanent structures again.
“A few hawkers may be trying to come back with four-wheeled kiosks, but their numbers are minuscule – barely 20-25 against the 150-odd that were removed. No new encroachment on the pavements are being allowed and the eviction process will be carried out in phases across the township,” Bidhannagar mayor Sabyasachi Dutta told TOI on Friday.
On Friday, Nandadulal Ghosh had put up a make-shift tea stall on the pavement opposite the Karuanmoyee government housing estate again. “We have come back. Let’s see how long this goes on,” he said.
However, several residents seemed happy to see the debris of dismantled shops on the pavements. “It feels amazing to drive past the pavements free of hawkers. We can now feel good about living in Salt Lake. I guess we have become comparable to New Town,” said 17-year-old Ishani Dutta, a college student from AA Block.
“I have never seen this kind of political and administrative will to cleanse the sidewalks. Is this for real? Most importantly, is the hawker-free Salt Lake a permanent feature?” asked Ishani’s grandfather, a 77-year-old retired civil engineer who had moved to Salt Lake four decades ago. “My grandfather said he was reminded of CPM leader and former KMC MMiC Kanti Ganguly’s ‘Operation Sunshine’ that freed the Gariahat pavements,” Ishani added.
For the residents, after Broadway was freed of hawkers in the run-up to the Fifa U-17 matches, the most visible change can be found around Karunamoyee, one of Salt Lake’s busiest zones. The so-called office zone dotted with government and private offices looked a tad dark on Friday in the absence of the low-slung bulbs in the roadside stalls.
But Parbati Das, a vegetable vendor near Anandalok Hospital, insisted: “We have the corporation’s licence.” She was speaking of the civic body’s policy taken up a few years ago, when a coucillor could permit four-wheeled kiosks to operate on the pavements in his wards. Her brethren had tweaked the rule and turned the kiosks into shops without wheels, which ate up the walking space in front of Anandalok Hospital.