Their annual turnover may well cross Rs 2 crore

Bhayandar: The recent attack by a mob of hawkers on on-duty civic personnel has once again turned the spotlight on the rising clout of the hawker mafia operating with impunity in the Mira-Bhayandar region.  Last week, a group of hawkers had mounted a violent assault on members of the anti-encroachment squad of the Mira Bhayandar Municipal Corporation (MBMC) which had gone to evict the hawkers from the recently demarcated ‘No Hawkers Zone’.

While hawkers claim that the attack was the fall-out of the constant harassment and extortionist demands by the civic team, thousands of handcarts conducting business in the twin-city are controlled by local mafias who are bestowed upon by the blessings of influential political leaders. Rented out to hawkers on a daily payment basis, these handcarts have a distinct colour code known to the civic staff. Hawkers using such carts are not harassed since a part of the profits appropriated by the ‘handcart mafia’ is systematically transformed into ‘hafta’.

With more than 5,000 hawkers operating in the twin-city, the annual turnover of the cart business is pegged at whooping Rs. 2 crore. It should be noted that as per a resolution passed by the General Body on 19, July, 2008, 66- ‘No Hawking Zones’ and 26- Hawking Zone’s have been identified in the region. The MBMC has awarded multi-crore contracts to four private agents for the collection of daily fees from hawkers. Although they are allowed collection only from those vendors operating in the Hawking Zones, the goons hired by the contractors have been defying the regulations by openly extorting money from illegally operating hawkers in the region. Thanks to the blessing bestowed on them by local political leaders ward officers have turned a blind eye towards the illegal activates which not only create traffic congestion but has posed a serious threat to the life of pedestrians.

Suresh Golani

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