Mahadi Hasan Badhon
Most of the Dhaka city footpaths are being illegally occupied by hawkers with the help of extortionists.
Pedestrians allege that police as well as some local groups in the name of politics take bribes from the hawkers.
Last year, Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) conducted a massive eviction drive against hawkers on footpaths in Gulistan area to ensure smooth movement of pedestrians.
However, after some days of that eviction, hawkers started occupying Gulistan area again.
When visiting different city areas including Gulistan, Dainik Bangla, Purana Paltan, Mouchak, New Market, Nilkhet, Farmgate, Rampura, Badda, Mirpur, Mohakhali, Shamoli, Kallyanpur and Kakrail, this correspondent found footpaths and roadsides almost blocked, causing immense suffering to pedestrians.
According to city corporation sources, “There is a total of 163 kilometers of pavements in Dhaka south and north city corporation areas. Of this, hawkers occupy 108.6 kilometers. Besides, a 572.42-kilometer roadside is totally occupied by permanent hawker markets from a total of 2,289.69 kilometers of roads.
Town Planner of DSCC Nazrul Islam told Bangladesh Post, “Traffic movement is badly disrupted due to setting up of floating markets on pavement as well as roads. Apart from this, the pressure on the main road is increasing as people are not able to walk on the footpaths. As a result, traffic congestion is not only increasing, but also creating the risk of death.”
In Dhaka city, 18 percent of existing footpaths are suitable for pavements while the rest are unusable due to car parking, grabbing by hawkers, waste dumping and stockpiling of construction materials, according to Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA).
According to hawker leaders, some 2.5 lakh hawkers in the capital have to pay tolls every day to politically-backed extortionists to run their business.
Talking to Bangladesh Post, Sajidul, a footpath hawker at Baitul Mukarram area, said, “Shortly after the eviction drives, we have again returned to footpaths to continue our business.”
“As we are illegal, we have to satisfy cops and local political leaders by paying an amount of money regularly,” he added.
Anwar, another hawker in Gulistan area said, they will go out of this area if the city corporation rehabilitates them in another area.
When asked about the matter, DSCC Mayor Sayeed Khokon said that last year, after the eviction, Gulistan was hawker-free for eight months. Now the situation has become worse. If I evict them in the morning, they again occupy the footpaths in the evening. Some corrupt police officials and so-called political leaders are involved in this regard.”
The Mayor also said, “I told all the hawkers not to give any money to those extortionists. We have made a list of hawkers, who will be rehabilitated later.”
When contacted DNCC panel Mayor Jamal Mostafa, told Bangladesh Post, “Recently, we have already evicted some illegal shops in Saat Rasta, Kalshi, Agargaon and Taltola areas. Our eviction drive will continue and further steps enforced after coordinating with Dhaka Metropolitan Police.”