Hundreds of fisherfolk and members of the indigenous Koli community hit the streets on Wednesday to protest the demolition of the Crawford Market and Dadar fish market.
The fishermen gathered outside the BMC headquarters and raised slogans, condemning their action. The protesters came from Raigad, Palghar, Vasai-Virar, Navi Mumbai and Uran and had gathered at Azar Maidan. The protest was led by Devendra Tandel, chief of Akhil Maharashtra Macchimar Kruti Samiti (AMMKS).
“Our demand is to give us back the shops from where we were evicted,” said Tandel. He added that the BMC had proposed an alternative makeshift market for the fishermen outside Crawford market. However, this is not adequate to accommodate so many fishermen.
“Fishermen from across the city should be allowed to carry out their business at the Mumbai Port Trust Land on the lines of Crawford Market,” he said. The BMC had allotted alternate stalls to them at the wholesale fish market in Airoli. However, the members of the community have said that there is no prospect of business there.
“Fishermen from all the adjoining districts travel to Mumbai as it is the epicentre of business. In Airoli, we don’t have many direct trains from places like Palghar, which is why it becomes inconvenient,” said Gopal Biswal, a fisherman.
They also said that after the demolition of the two markets, there is no wholesale market left for them in the city.
“Most sellers are either women or senior citizens. How will they travel to Airoli everyday when everyone is not allowed in trains yet,” said another fisherman.
“We visited the Airoli market. The place is far away from the station and not many go there to buy fish,” he said. Following the meeting, a delegation of fishermen met municipal commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal. While Chahal was unavailable, they were heard by joint municipal commissioner Ramesh Pawar, who assured them that their issue will be taken up by higher authorities.
“The markets were demolished as they were in a dilapidated state and needed immediate redevelopment. All the fishermen that had proper documents were allotted shops in Airoli which is accessible by Thane, Navi Mumbai and Harbour Line from Mumbai," said a BMC senior official. The members also met state minister of fisheries Aslam Shaikh who assured them his cooperation.
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