Mumbai: Hawkers charged Rs 2,000 as penalty for not paying rent

Failing to pay rent for their pitches during the lockdown, licensed hawkers have been asked to pay a penalty. The BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation's (BMC) License Department has begun sending notices to these hawkers/vendors and have collected Rs 2,000 as penalty from each of the licensed hawkers as a three-month late fee, despite the hawkers being helpless regarding the payment for the last couple of months.

Even as the Citizen Facilitation Centres (CFCs) in all 24 wards, where the hawkers are supposed to pay the rent were closed during the lockdown period, hawkers in the city have been facing the brunt of it. The wards officers and license officer at the ward level said that they do not have authority to waive it; the decision is from head office.

There are 24 CFCs at every ward office across the city that offers services such as issuing various types of licences and certificates -- trade licences, birth certificates, death certificates, hoarding and advertising permits, permission for cutting and trimming of trees, registration of shops and establishments, and payment of water charges, amongst others.

"There are around 12,000 hawkers who got their license before 1975. The BMC does not want any issue regarding the illegal transfer of hawking pitches or stalls. Hence, the rules are made stringent,” said a civic officer.

While citizens can pay and apply online for most of the services, hawkers have to pay the monthly rent and other fees in person at the CFC. "While our members have been paying their rents at CFCs for years, the recent lockdown prevented them from doing so. All the CFCs were closed from March 23 and opened only after June 8. Hawkers couldn't pay the fee, as the centres were closed. But when they finally went to pay the rent this week, they were charged Rs 2,000 extra from each of the hawkers as a late fees/penalty of three months. We have approached ward level officials, but in vain. It is not possible for the hawkers/stall owners to make the payment online, this is unfair," said Babaji Shinde, head of Mumbai Stall License Holders Union.

"We cannot do much, it is a system-generated bill. We have advised the hawkers/stall owners to submit a written complaint about the extra charges/penalty. The proposal to waive off the penalty charges has to be sent to the standing committee, as it is a revenue matter," said Sharad Bande, superintendent of licences, BMC

At one end, the BMC is charging penalty to the authorised hawkers and stall owners for late payment of rent of their pitches, on the other, the Maharashtra government, in the first week of July, informed the Bombay High Court that it has no plans yet to allow such street vendors to carry out their usual business, especially in the present scenario. The government said that allowing vendors could increase the risk of spread of the virus since it is an ‘unorganised’ sector.

The hawkers and stall owners union, however, is planning to seek help from the Mumbai Mayor in the matter soon.

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