Stations stay clear of hawkers as BMC, MNS keep up heat

Railway stations continued to be largely free of hawkers on Tuesday as the BMC continued its drive against illegal vendors and the MNS kept up its threat of action, asking local wings to carry out “flag marches” at the nearest stations.

The BMC, helped by the police, cleared areas around several stations like Ghatkopar, Santacruz, Malad, Dadar and GTB Nagar, for the second day .Its ward-level staff was spotted at several stations keeping an eye out for illegal hawkers. The BMC has made it clear that no action should be taken against newspaper vendors.

“We had stationed our staff outside station premises along with vans,” said a senior BMC ward-level official, adding that focus on stations could lead to unregulated hawker menace at other areas as the BMC’s resources were stretched. He also wondered how long this vigil could be kept up in the absence of a clear policy.

But the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, which had forcibly evicted illegal hawkers from Thane, Kalyan, Dombivli and Santacruz stations over the weekend, kept up the heat. “We will keep an eye on the railway and BMC’s action. If they stop, MNS is ready to continue,” said general secretary Sandeep Deshpande on Tuesday .

He also said all senior leaders and respective vibhag adhyaksh (area president) will do a “flag march” in their areas and the nearest station. “We were not allowed on Tuesday to have flag march in Dadar, but got permission for Wednesday morning,” the MNS leader added.

Over 40 MNS workers were arrested on Monday in Mumbai and Thane over the attacks on hawkers, and most were let out on bail. The six workers, including MNS youth wing leader Akhil Chitre, who were arrested by the Vakola police have been asked to sign a bond of good behaviour. They cannot enter the Vakola police’s jurisdiction for the next 10 days and will need to maintain peace and be on good behaviour. If they are found flouting the instru ctions or engaged in unlawful activities, a report will be sent to court, said the police.

City Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam raised the bullying by MNS workers with BMC commissioner Ajoy Mehta.”The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act has not been implemented and there are no clear hawking and non-hawking zones in the city . So on what basis is the MNS acting against these hawkers? Besides, they have no authority to take action against them. The MNS is being encouraged by the government,” he said.

Another demand for stern action against MNS workers for taking the law into their hands was placed before Mumbai police commissioner Datta Padsalgikar by former Congress minister Naseem Arif Kh an, who was representing the Azad hawkers’ union.

In a related move, the Thane civic body will clear the 300m concourse leading to the Thane station platforms on the west of vehicles and hawkers and make it a pedestrian-only zone. Six MNS activists, including the party’s Thane city chief Avinash Jadhav , were produced in court on Tuesday and remanded in police custody for a day.