Post stampede, railway premises are now hawker-free

  Elphinstone Road bridge Tragedy impact

Mumbai : It took a horrific stampede at Elphinstone bridge and the lives of 23 persons to eradicate the presence of hawkers from railway premises. This move has come after an order was issued to the Divisional Railway Manager of both western and central line demanding all station masters to click a photograph of any hawker’s presence in the railway premises.

The station master has been assigned the work to forward the photo to the concerned railway police or Railway Protection Staff (RPF) for them to take action.

Today, the FOB’s of railway stations like Dadar, Kurla, Parel, Bandra and Andheri are free from hawkers which otherwise caused obstruction in free movement of passengers walking on the bridge.

The city railway activists have alleged that the presence of hawkers on the bridge or subways has reduced the width of the bridge from ten meters to 7 meters.

“The bridge becomes narrow with the presence of hawkers on both the sides. We have provided several suggestions like creating a divider on the bridge after which a commuter can walk without any obstructions on left and right side of the bridge. This will also help in eradicating the hawkers from the bridge. A divider has been constructed on the FOB at Santacruz station,” said Kailash Verma, a member of Zonal Railway Users Consultative Committee (ZRUCC) of Western Railway.

The activists were also of the opinion that railways and the civic body must work together to provide designated places to the hawkers outside their premises. “The railways can put sign boards of ‘no hawker zone’ on the bridges and railway premises where hawkers are likely to grow their presence. The hawkers can also be given an area outside civic body and railway premises,” added Verma.

The railway activists alleged that the hawkers are likely to make a comeback after the situation has calmed down a bit. “The heated situation has forced the railway authorities to eradicate the hawkers completely from the bridges. I hope the authorities continue working in a similar manner,” said the activist.

The activists also said that railway authorities must assign proper responsibilities to station master, railway police and RPF to monitor the presence of hawkers at railway premises. “It is important that either the station master or an on-duty RPF official monitors the footage of Close Circuit Television Cameras (CCTV) installed on the bridges and stations. This can help them take the necessary action,” said Anil Galgali, a Right to Information activist.

The Railway Protection Force (RPF) of central railway had sent a proposal to railway board for introducing spot fine to reduce hawker menace in the railway premises in April. A spot fine means that the official would impose multiple fines to the hawkers who encroach the railway premises.

The officials said that a spot fine amounting to Rs 500 would act as a deterrent to hawking. The other ways could be confiscating their goods in order to stop the hawking menace completely.

 “Confiscating the goods sold by hawkers would hit them financially. Spot fine would act as a strong deterrent to hawking, as many hawkers tend to return to their place after paying their fine amount in the court,” said Sachin Bhalode, Senior Divisional Security Commissioner of Central Railway (CR).

The hawkers are prosecuted under the 144 (a) section of railway act for hawking. They are usually found to be encroaching the railway premises of Chhtrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CST), Dadar and Kurla areas.

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