Do eviction drives award any fruitful results?

The drive against illegal occupiers conducted by two city corporations in Dhaka has become a hide and seek game, as the driven out persons return to the same place despite repeated eviction. The Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) has continued a special eviction drive to free roads, pavements and remove illegal occupation. The place once again occupied shortly after the eviction.

City dwellers have raised questions about the outcome of the drive, terming it nothing but an eyewash. Dhaka North Mayor Atiqul Islam directed DNCC teams to clear out all illegal structures, including makeshift shops, on the outside pavements and adjacent areas. DNCC authorities on September 30 conducted eviction drive in city’s Karwan Bazar, Farmgate, Uttara, Khilkhet and Mirpur areas. During the drive, DNCC authorities demolished more than 1,500 illegal infrastructures occupying roadsides and footpaths.

DNCC’s mobile courts led by executive magistrates Md Sajid Anwar, SM Sahfiul Azam, Md Abdul Hamid Mia and Zulkar Nayon conducted those drives. Now, during the recent visit to the evicted areas, this correspondent found that the areas were being reoccupied again. The Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) on September 25 conducted drive in Gulistan and Motijheel areas and evicted hawkers. After completing the drive, DSCC team claimed that they removed more than 100 makeshift structures on pavements at Phoenix Road, Zero Point, GPO and Baitul Mukarram areas.

But the hawkers came back to their places after the hour-long operation. Some of them resumed their businesses soon after the officials left the spot to raid other places. At the end of the day, almost nothing changed as the footpaths in Gulistan and Motijheel areas remained the same.

The city corporation teams removed makeshift shops and when they left one place to conduct another drive at other places, vendors became busy in collecting their goods– from fruits to clothes. They redecorated their shops and began sales. Mahbub Hasan, 35, a pedestrian said the DSCC frequently conduct such drives at Gulistan to free the footpaths from hawkers. However, those are never found clear to walk.

“Street vendors return minutes after every eviction drive. It is like a hide and seek game between the hawkers and city corporation authorities and it is nothing but an eyewash,” he added.

Hawkers want rehabilitation

Hawkers and vendors strongly opposed the city corporations’ drive terming it an “autocratic attitude”. They have been seeking rehabilitation since long. On October 3, Bangladesh Hawkers’ Union held the rally in front of the National Press Club which was presided over by its president Abdul Hashim Kabir.

The government should stop eviction of hawkers from Dhaka roads and sidewalks, and should immediately formulate a policy for the management of the hawkers, said leaders of Bangladesh Hawkers Union during a rally in Dhaka on Wednesday. They also demanded that the hawkers should be repatriated before forcing them out of their trade.

“They are trying to drive us away without showing a path to do business at an alternative place,” said Ariful, a vendor of Gulistan area. Other hawkers echoed almost the same. More than 10,000 hawkers of the Old Town became jobless due to current drives against hawkers on roads and sidewalks, general secretary of the Communist Party of Bangladesh Mohammad Shah Alam said.

Abu Naser Khan, Chairman of Save the Environment Movement told Bangladesh Post that the government could stop the ‘eviction game’ if wish. He said those who run their business occupying government lands are internal refugees. They are doing something to earn their livelihood by seeking shelter in the capital. Some influential political leaders are doing business by using them; taking lakhs of taka from the hawkers.

Eviction gives nothing than loss

After conducting eviction drive, these hawkers and poor traders face huge amount of loss, even some of them see their items lost. On the other hand, the influential people remain out of touch. DNCC mobile court demolished more than 4,000 structures from different areas in its jurisdiction specially Karwan Bazar, Farmgate, Mirpur, Uttora, and Khilkhet areas.

In Karwan Bazar, DNCC smashed three-wheeler vans keeping aside some trucks beside untouched, which became viral on facebook. Some criticized such DNCC activities in their social networking site post saying that it is totally an inhuman activity. “DNCC can only do it against poor hawkers, van drives but they do nothing against influentials”, Saiful, 40, a hawker said.

City Corporations also have to spent huge amount of money for conducting the drives. DNCC Chief Estate Officer Aminul Islam told Bangladesh Post, “We have an estimated cost of Tk 20,000 for per team in an eviction drive. Sometimes we have to spend more than this amount.”

About the total cost for special eviction drive, which started from September 22, he said, “Now, the drive has been stopped due to Puja. After the vacation, we will calculate the total cost and decide from which day we start the drive again.”