Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXVIII No. 23, March 16-31, 2019

Should pavement get hawker space?

– Vincent D'Souza

There was a time when I took guests who were on a Chennai tour to Pondy Bazaar. We would get off the auto at a point opposite Holy Angels school and walk on the pavement. My idea of showing them the city included a brush with its maddening shopping paradise.
I hardly shop. But I enjoy window-shopping. And the windows include the carts and tables of street hawkers.
Some years ago, the City Fathers got the Pondy Bazaar hawkers cleaned up. The pavements were relaid, metallic railings and glossy road signs were erected and a few hawkers were shoved into a three-storeyed shopping complex.
The big stores on this road that leads to Panagal Park must have been pleased. But the life of the shopping district ebbed. For, the hawkers were the ones who provided much of the experience to people as much as people enjoyed checking out the goods in the stores on the same stretch.
Today, the same fringes of the road have been dug up for the Smart City project which promises wide pavements, streamlined traffic and a better experience.
Hawkers – you love them, you hate them.
Out in the town of Kozhikode in Kerala, hawkers, trade unionists and people are on a protest campaign because the City Fathers there decided to clean up the famed S. M. Street of hawkers. Besides being a paradise for shoppers, the area also had space for public meetings and street theatre.
It is now a ‘no traffic’ zone. And some people do not like the idea at all.
Pavement for hawkers or for people?
How do we treat the commons – the space of parks, scrubs and lakes and water bodies?
And is relocating people who have resided in shacks along the Buckingham Canal and the Cooum for ages, have jobs in these neighbourhoods, to the city’s periphery like Semmenchery and Perumbakkam also a form of discrimination?
These and other issues were the themes of talks and conversation at a recent meet hosted by Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG) which is based in the city.
Someone brought up the issue of residents of a nagar in the Adyar area discouraging the civic body from laying wide pavements because they expected food carts and hawkers to take over the space. South Mada Street in Mylapore holds up this development.
Hawkers are a part of our lives. There are excesses.
Perhaps the Marina Beach is a good example.
But there has to be space for hawkers, for pedestrians and for those who live in the shopping zones. They must co-habit.
Don’t you think one side of Pondy Bazaar has lost the zing?

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