In the run-up to Durga Puja, hawkers at Gariahat have finally accepted the kiosks supplied by Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC). The 29 kiosks handed over by the civic body to hawkers over a month ago have been lying idle, occupying part of the carriageway.
The shift from reluctance to acceptance follows a recent meeting among hawkers, where it was felt that refusal to use them would be viewed as a rebuff by the civic authority and lead to stringent action against them.
“Since KMC has handed the kiosks to hawkers, it legitimises the business on pavements in a way. The onus of organising the business within the confines of the kiosks lies with hawkers. The KMC has already redesigned the kiosks following our appeal. If we don’t use them now, the civic bosses may decide to play tough and evict us,” said Ajay Dey who sells leather goods.
Hawkers have been unhappy about the kiosks primarily because it limits the space to just 4ft×4ft. At present, most of the makeshift hawker stalls measure 5ft×7ft. Some of them are even larger.
The KMC initiative to hand over standard mobile kiosks with steel frame and tin sheet follows a devastating fire on January 20 that gutted well-known shops like Adi Dhakeswari Bastralay and Traders’ Assembly.
The fire had apparently spread from a plastic sheet used as protective cover against the elements. In the case of Bagri market, too, the fire had spread from a hawker stall and firemen had difficulty fighting it in the initial stage due to the presence of stalls.
Of the 29 kiosks that were provided by KMC in Gariahat, all but five have been occupied. Gariahat Hawkers’ Union secretary Debraj Ghosh, who had a tough time convincing hawkers to use the kiosks, is glad that they have finally done so. “I made them understand that an official kiosk is a big step forward. We can also get trade licence and proper electricity connection,” he said, adding that the five that were empty would soon be put into use.
A traffic sergeant expressed relief at the hawkers’ decision to use the kiosks and take them off the road.
“Rashbehari Avenue has exceeded the saturation level as far as its vehicular count is concerned. It is particularly bad closer to Gariahat crossing. Encroachment on even a short stretch becomes a big issue,” said a traffic sergeant.
Source: Times of India