Women feel ‘violated walking through the crowded market’
Magam: Shopkeepers and street vendors have taken over pavements in this town and adjoining areas while local Municipal Committee sits with its eyes closed over the gross violation.
Every morning, shopkeepers set up their merchandise on the pavements outside their shops, leaving pedestrians with no choice but to walk on the road. At several places, vendors set up stalls to sell fruit, vegetables or readymade clothes, forcing pedestrians dangerously close to the moving vehicles. As office hours start approaching, traffic snarls, almost bringing the pace of life to a halt.
Shoppers complain that encroachments by shopkeepers cause impediments in their movement and put their lives in danger.
At the main market here, whole sale agents, crockery sellers, and motor cycle dealers have expanded their showrooms to the middle of the road, leaving a single lane for the motorists and pedestrians.
“There is no space to walk on the road as all the shopkeepers have displayed their goods on footpaths and the rest of the space was captured by vendors, especially on a road from Agarikalan to police station Magam,” said Muhammad Adil who came here to buy some goods.
“It is really hard to find space to walk on a footpath here. One has to walk on the main road. I don’t know why Municipal Committee Magam (MCM) doesn’t take any action against the encroachers,” said Talha Ahmed, another shopper.
Women complain that they feel “violated walking through the crowded market”. A student, Kulsoom, who studies in Srinagar told Kashmir Reader that she hesitates walking to the bus stand in the middle of the town market. “You feel people touch you all the time in the market,” she said. “Not everyone wants to violate you, but it is the encroachment of the walkways that leaves no space for people to walk.”
A heath services employee pointed out the effort it takes to help ambulances pass through the market. “Several people volunteer to create space for ambulances that carry patients in critical condition.”
An employee Nazir Rather said, “The situation worsens during late hours when we are stuck for hours while on way home from work. Some of us feel nauseated sitting in the vehicles.”
The footpaths should be freed from the encroachments as they have been constructed for pedestrians and not for vendors and shopkeepers.”
Maqbool Mohammad, a shopkeeper said that they displayed their goods outside the shops to keep vendors away from their shops. “Otherwise, they block the access to our shops,” he said, and added that the vendors’ “bribed the MCM officials who get them space for their stalls”.
Khalid, another shopkeeper said, that the vendors could not establish their stalls without the help of the officials. “Vendors have information about the MCM operation in advance, so they move their goods when they come for market inspection,” he said. However, he admitted that there had been no operation against the encroachments for decades.
Executive officer Municipal Committee Magam, Shafqat Ali, said that the committee was striving to remove the encroachment in the markets. “The smooth flow of traffic on the road is the responsibility of the traffic police who could remove illegal parking in the bazaars,” he said.
“We have no land to provide the vendors where they can install their carts. Once we will find the alternative land for their relocation, we will get rid of this,” he said.