At a time when people blame Traffic Police for the mess on roads, a common Kashmiri wants an answer to a simple question, “who allow street vendors to occupy footpaths and roads illegally.” These street vendors have become source of nuisance for tourists and locals in every nook and corner of Kashmir.
The street vendors are seen occupying footpaths in City Centre Lal Chowk, Boulevard and Dalgate, Lal Ded Hospital road, Hari Singh High Street, Batamaloo and all other major districts of Kashmir valley.
The occupation of footpaths in the City Centre hinders movement of tourists and locals who aspire to move in the area. “Due to presence of these street vendors we face problems to walk on the roads. This poses risk of accidents,” said a pedestrian to CNS when an Alto hit a pedestrian near Pratap Park Srinagar on Monday. “It is an open fact that these vendors carry their business either on the behest of politicians or police,” he said adding that no where in the world officials for sake of corruption put people in great trouble.
A group of people who assembled around the accident spot didn’t rule out “nexus between police, civil administration and the street vendors for mushrooming of this illegal trade.
“It will take you just five minutes from Radio Kashmir to Amira Kadal by any vehicle or bike if the road is vendors free and for the same distance you have to waste more than 40 minutes and this is all because of these street vendors. I laugh at you people when you blame Traffic police for the traffic mess in Srinagar,” said a Professor.
Street vendors are everywhere and one fails to understand who permits them to occupy foothpaths. These vendors across City nerve centre Lal Chowk and other areas have encroached major portions of roads and footpaths – creating trouble for pedestrians and vehicular movement. The footpaths are occupied by vendors selling items like electronic accessories, garments, cosmetic collections, fruits, vegetables, crockery, snacks and leather goods. With footpath vendors occupying space on the streets, the vehicles could be seen struggling to move and pedestrians craving for a smooth walk, especially at some of the cities crowded places like Residency road, Amira Kadal, Goni Khan, Hari Singh High Street and Batamaloo.
A senior journalist on condition of anonymity told CNS that he was booked, arrested and a formal case was registered against him by then city police chief when he filed a story how police encourage these city vendors and ‘grab money’ from them. “Then city police chief called me on phone and when I refused to apologize, he got me and my friend arrested and a case under section 500 and 505 of RPC was registered against us. Nobody here is ready to accept reality and the irony is that even constructive criticism is intolerable,” he said and added that blaming few policemen for the mess doesn’t mean whole department is rotten.
In many places of the city footpaths do not technically exist, as they are either too narrow for people to walk on, or have been encroached by hawkers, forcing pedestrians onto the roads.
“To travel short distances, it takes hours to reach the destination as vendors have extended their carts on roads. Which results in frequent traffic jams and the bus runs at a snail’s pace,” said a local Showkat Ahmed.
“There is hardly any space left for vehicles on the Amira Kadal Bridge as most of the bridge is occupied by vendors and fishermen, I had to travel to Batamaloo via Residency road and it took me an hour to cross the Amira Kadal Bridge. They (street vendors) should be removed from the pavements to ensure smooth movement of traffic and pedestrians safety,” said a college student Mir Iram.
She said, a walk down the road is an evidence enough to depict how the entire footpaths and roadsides have been devoured by vendors.
Adding to the miseries of the people at some places one could see two or even three rows of kiosks side by side selling different goods thus leading to frequent traffic jams.
People alleged that the illegal occupiers maintain good liaison with some politically influential people to run their businesses on the footpaths. “It is an hours job for the police to free these foothpaths and roads from vendors, but they feel pressure at the top,” another local said.
A street vendor known to this reporter revealed that a former MLA once vacated us from our respective places but allowed us to continue provided they vote for him. “It is politics and no politician will dare to lose our votes,” he said.
Another vendors said that they are aware about the problems that pedestrians face but, “ we have no other option. We know we are doing business on public place illegally, but this is the only way for income through which we are feeding our families.”