In a quest to clear the bottlenecks at Pali Naka junction, Pali Market, Pali Mala & Dr. Ambedkar Road that hamper pedestrians’ mobility, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation razed illegal extensions of over 25 shops & restaurants and removed unauthorised hawkers on Thursday September 21, 2017. The illegal portions of the iconic Toto’s Garage, Gondola, Soul Fry, The Deepak Wines, Jude Wines and Jude Cold Storage among others were demolished. However, this didn’t stop the shopkeepers from rebuilding temporary sheds immediately a day after the demolition.

Hard-nosed on resolving the issue, the civic demolition squad razed the extensions again on Friday, September 29. According to Mrs Madhu Poplai, Secretary of the Pali Hill Residents’ Association, the shopkeepers turned a deaf ear to the notices served 4-6 months in advance. However, the shopkeepers deny the acquisition of any such legal notice. She adds that the extensions of restaurants like The Irish House and Sri Sagar are also illegal, but the notices to these joints were served only in the latter half of September. Action against them can be expected in near future.

Over 25 shops & restaurants and removed unauthorised hawkers on Thursday September 21, 2017.

What’s causing the congestion?
Illegal extensions, commercial parking and unauthorised stalls had reduced the freeway near Pali Market. “To increase the road’s width, licensed hawkers were being troubled initially, when the actual illegal extensions lay on the other side of the road,” said Poplai. Demolition followed suit. “The roads were so congested that it would take us 20-30 minutes to cross from Pali Hill Rajendra Kumar Chowk to Pali Naka. Residents had started complaining, incessantly, to improve the entry and exit. With obstructions, the road left was only 28 feet wide.” Adding to the snag is the illegal commercial parking by restaurants like Wok Express, The Punjab Sweet House and 5 Spice. “They have over 20 motorcycles parked in line for delivery purposes. These bottlenecks posed accident threats and didn’t leave space for shoppers to move or park their vehicles.”

How can it be fixed?
Rehabilitation of the authorized vendors, at Pali Market, by relocating them to a space reserved, by Manthan Developers, exclusively for the market. According to the market’s redevelopment project by Manthan Group, 62 slots are reserved for these vendors inside the market. Along with the market expanse, over 25 spots are reserved for parking vehicles brought along by shoppers.

Dispute with Manthan Developers
In 2006, Manthan Group cornered the rights to revamp nine municipal markets, across Mumbai, including the very lucrative Pali Market, but the construction has been stalled for more than a decade owing to civil aviation obstacles. This leaves vendors languishing on the pavements. Mrs Shyama Kulkarni, from the Pali Hill Residents’ Association, said, “By regularly pulling down licensed hawkers to clear congestion, we are sabotaging their livelihood. They were supposed to be given a place inside the market long ago. A few vendors including 12 fisherwomen, who regularly sat on the sidewalks, have disappeared in the last 3-4 years.” After the demolition drive, cheques issued by the builder to the hawkers who were to be rehabilitated bounced, forcing them to issue new post-dated cheques. A meeting with the Municipal Commissioner, in the last week of September, coaxed the officials to intensify their action against the developer with a three-month deadline frame.

Mr. Sharad Ughade, Assistant Municipal Commissioner (H-West ward), said, “We are planning to widen the 40-foot-wide road. Efforts are being taken to persuade Manthan developers to either accommodate the licensed vendors or pay them rent. In addition, we’re also trying to bring a portion of land under the corporation’s possession so that we can shift these authorized vendors to a secure place.” With regards to illegal encroachments, Ughade adds, “If the illegal extensions continue, we shall lodge the MRTP (Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices) Act.” To arrest unauthorized parking, a joint action along with the traffic police department is expected in the next few months.

Sharlene Lobo