Mumbai: Shopkeepers Face Attacks, Property Damage As Hawker Mafia Rule Ghatkopar Streets

Mumbai: Shopkeepers Face Attacks, Property Damage As Hawker Mafia Rule Ghatkopar Streets

Police sources say hawkers are part of organised rackets with funding and sales targets; cops detain some hawkers, but no arrests have been made yet

Aishwarya IyerUpdated: Saturday, February 17, 2024, 02:02 AM IST
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Representational Image | Vijay Gohil

The problem of illegal hawkers in Ghatkopar West has assumed grave proportions. In the absence of any action by the BMC and the police, the hawkers have become emboldened to attack shopkeepers who object to their presence in front of their establishments.

"Hawker raj bribes authorities"

A local resident Vipul Shah said, “We are having hawker raj here. They bribe the BMC and police staff and lord over our roads and footpaths. Shopkeepers and pedestrians are completely at the mercy of these hawkers.”

On Thursday, Bipil Dilip Gupta, owner of Agarwal Juice and Bhelpuri Centre at the junction of MG Road and Ghatkopar West station road asked hawkers, who were blocking access to his shop, to move. When they refused, he contacted the BMC, but in vain. He then called the police. Incensed by this, the hawkers barged into the shop, threw out furniture, utensils etc on the road and roughed up his staff.

“The hawkers came to know that I had complained to police. Soon, about ten hawkers barged into my shop and started throwing things around and damaging my property. They also threatened to attack me because I was a roadblock to their business,” Gupta told FPJ.

Authorities turn a blind eye

Gupta’s shop is more than 50 years old, and the menace of hawkers has been happening since 2020, he said. Despite multiple complaints to the BMC, and the police, there has been no change.

Agreeing with Gupta’s complainants, another owner of a garment shop said, “Hawkers are not just affecting us – shops, but also pedestrians, customers and motorists. They have taken up both sides of the road, making the roads narrower than it is already! Neither the BMC nor the police have done anything to free us from this trouble.” A mafia of hawkers have totally dominated the streets and pavements.

The police later came to the spot and detained some of the hawkers but no arrests have been made yet. Gupta was later called to the police station and his statement was recorded, and subsequently, an FIR was registered against some people.

Mahatma Gandhi Rd, Sadanand Rd, Court Lane Rd, Railway station Rd- Main affected areas

Four crucial internal routes of Ghatkopar West where the troubles of hawkers linger are – Mahatma Gandhi Road, Sadanand Road, Court Lane Road and the Railway station road. “These roads have maternity and heart hospitals, some have BMC-run schools and a health centre as well. By law, hawkers aren’t supposed to be there at railway station premises, schools, and hospitals but all they are doing is breaking the law with impunity,” added Gupta.

Another citizen Rasesh Chheda said, “Once I saw a BEST bus driver getting down from the vehicle and requesting with folded hands a hawker to move his handcart by a few feet so that he could manoeuvre his bus.”

According to police sources, these hawkers are part of multiple rackets. They are allegedly managed by a set of people, who fund them and give them sales targets which are to be met. “We are investigating the matter, it’s too soon to comment on it,” said a senior official.

In the FIR registered, charges under section 341 (wrongful restraint), 504 (intentional insult to provoke), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code have been applied.

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