Hawkers elbow out walkers from FC Road footpaths

Hawkers’ paradise, Fergusson College Road is pedestrians’ nightmare.

Hawkers occupy almost the entire stretch of footpaths on the either side of the arterial road, blocking space meant for walking. It is difficult to navigate one’s way through even a few metres at a stretch, especially in the evenings.

So, where do pedestrians go? Their only option is the chaotic carriageway , thereby adding to the mess.

FC Road is among the most vibrant spots of the city , attracting not only droves of citizens and college students, but also tourists and foreigners.Besides permanent shops, it is dotted with colourful stalls and makeshift stands selling everything from books to shoes, colourful clothes, latest fashion jewellery , hair and home accessories. Sandwiched between them are scores of food stalls luring passers-by with mouth-watering offering of myriad snacks and savouries.

Combined with the heavy traffic on this arterial road all through the day , the result is a chaotic mishmash that scares the elderly and even those not familiar with its functioning.

Jayshree Joshi, a middle aged-lady weaving her way through the mess said, “These roadside stalls are a big problem. We are not able to walk without a break. The young buyers crowd around the hawkers, further adding to the crowd on the footpath. This is not the place to do business.“

According to records, most of the hawkers here are illegal. Helpless residents of the area felt the customers were feeding the problem.

Anil Kelkar, a member of the Deccan Gymkhana Parisar Samiti, said, “It’s absolutely sickening to walk on FC Road in the evenings and on weekends and we avoid stepping out. One has no option but to elbow one’s way ahead. We wonder about the quality of the stuff people are buying from vendors. Worse is the litter left behind by the shoppers.All illegal encroachments need to be removed from the road and not patronizing the roadside shops is one way to do it.“

Experts stressed that the identity of the road should be capitalized while working out solutions to the chaos. Pranjali Deshpande-Agashe, the programme manager (Maharashtra) of Institute for Transportation and Development Policy , said, “Fergusson College Road is very wide with heavy traffic. While that cannot be done away with, it can defini tely be redesigned to better utilize the space. Special hawker zones can be developed to make mini plazas all along the road and available parking space can be reduced among others.“

Mohammad Damase, a roadside seller of garments, admitted he paid no rent. “I have been doing business here for many years, but we live under constant pressure of being caught by the anti-encroachment department of the Pune Municipal Corporation. We are forced to wind up at short notice whenever the officials come. We come back on the road only when we are sure that they have left,“ he said.

Ghole Road ward officer Nitin Udas said his department was working to keep the footpath clear of encroachments. “FC Road is a no hawking zone and for the last two weeks we have been ensuring that there are no hawkers on this road. They get patronage from a lot of customers who come here for good deals, but our van is stationed on the road to discourage the hawkers,“ he said.

Anti-encroachment drives are being conducted almost everyday along busy roads of the city, said Vilas Kanade, the head of the anti-encroachment department of the Pune Municipal Corporation.

Source : TOI