Srinagar: Hawkers selling merchandise on cots and handcarts seem to have taken over the city centre and other streets of Srinagar as it adapts to business activities after a long dry spell.
Footpaths and motorways in Lal Chowk and adjoining markets, like Hari Singh High Street, Batamaloo, Karan Nagar, Dalgate Lal Ded Hospital chowk and even uptown Hyderpora remain cluttered and clogged with the hawker stalls, leaving little to no space for pedestrians and motorists.
Before the summer uprising of 2016, civil authorities in Srinagar had gone into an overdrive to clear the streets off the hawkers. The government had also identified and allotted some sites to some of the street vendors like SRTC yard in Lal Chowk, Sector 7 Batmaloo, and Malasiya site near LD Hospital, but during the uprising the government surprisingly evacuated hawkers out of the SRTC yard (Makkah Market).
“I didn’t know why government removed us from the market, but we are satisfied on footpaths. Most of the people walk through the footpath by purchasing our products,” Bashir Ahmad, a hawker, in Lal Chowk said.
The Makkah Market, as the SRTC yard was renamed, is now again occupied by SRTC buses. While other spaces allotted to hawkers were not evacuated, many hawkers have moved their stalls to encroach on a busy roadside by choice.
“Due to the disturbance in the valley we located our stalls on footpaths, when situation becomes normal we will go back to our allotted spaces,” Mohd Shafi, a hawker at Amira Kadal said.
Adding to the woes of pedestrians and motorists is the sheer number of hawkers, which seems to have multiplied manifold during the summer uprising.
“It seems as if half of the city is selling merchandise on handcarts. There is no room to walk,” Shabir Ahmad, a resident of Dalgate, said.
Like Shabir, many other pedestrians are lamenting the takeover of footpaths.
“I don’t understand why the street vendors are again occupying footpaths. There is not even a small space for pedestrians. It seems government has to show off normalcy by not taking any action regarding the vendors,” Amir Ahmad, a pedestrian, said.
The encroached roads are creating problems for commuters and create traffic jam for hours.
Abdul Sattar, another local resident, said that while footpaths were occasionally cleared, the hawkers “grease the palms of police and the SMC officials and manage to reoccupy these paths”.
Chief Revenue Officer (CRO), Srinagar Municipal Corporation, Nissar Ahmad told Kashmir Reader, “Last year we had allotted six spaces for them (hawkers), but now they are again occupying foot path, within 15 days we will look into the matter.”
Regarding the Makah Market which was allotted to street venders of Lal Chowk but retaken, the CRO said, “we will look for any other option for them.”