Most of the footpaths alongside the major thoroughfares, especially in the old part of capital Dhaka, remain illegally occupied by hawkers and others despite drives by the authorities concerned.
There are allegations that police in those areas allow hawkers to occupy roads and sidewalks in exchange for bribes.
Occupying the sidewalk, shops are set up permanently. And those who do not find a place on the sidewalks sit on the streets with their wares. There are even fruit baskets, vegetable sacks, etc. placed on the road dividers, and pedestrians have to go down the main road or in the middle of the road facing risk.
Moving around the capital Dhaka city, this correspondent found that almost all the footpaths alongside the major thoroughfares in the two city corporations remain illegally occupied by hawkers and others.
While moving around the city, Bangladesh Post reporter found thousands of illegal makeshift shops have sprung up, especially in Gulistan, Jatrabari, Saydabad, Mouchak, Shantinagar, Motijheel, New Market, Nilkhet, Nawabpur, Karwanbazar, Gulshan-1 &2, Badda, Natun Bazar, Baridhara J Block, Uttara, Mirpur, Farmgate and some other areas of the city corporations, including 108 km footpaths, forcing the pedestrians to use the main roads.
A major part of the Abdul Gani Road in front of the most important office secretariat of the government is occupied by various types of vehicles coming from outside all day long. As a result, even the cars of ministers and MPs cannot move smoothly. During peak hours, there are always terrible traffic jams. The police then get busy blowing their whistles, but to no avail.
Such is the scenario throughout the capital. Roads, sidewalks, alleys, fields, parks, canals, flyovers, foot over bridges have all been occupied illegally. As a result, vehicles cannot move and pedestrians cannot walk smoothly. Even ambulances are stuck on the roads for hours.
The situation in old Dhaka is even more horrible. Most of the streets are occupied by traders. North South Road, English Road, Dholaikhal, Alubazar, Bangshal, Babubazar, Laxmibazar, Shakharibazar, Raisaheb Bazar, Patuatuli, Nayabazar and most of the roads in old Dhaka are occupied. The wholesale business has been going on for years keeping goods on the streets. The traffic jam continues day and night. But there is no one to watch.
According to the victims, sometimes drives are carried out in the capital to clear the sidewalks and roads. The operations cost thousands of taka to carry out, but with no result.
Although efforts have been made to recover illegally occupied roads, sidewalks and market spaces more than once in the last five years, apparently no result is visible.
On September 14 this year, Mayor of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) Barrister Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh announced that illegal easy-bikes and motorized rickshaws would not be allowed in the south.
After that, to create public opinion and awareness, a notification was also given in the newspaper regarding the removal of these illegal vehicles. Two months have passed and no action has been taken by the city corporation to implement the mayor's directive.
On the contrary, the number of these illegal vehicles has increased at an alarming rate in the South. Earlier, they moved in alleys, but now they move even on the main roads. Motorized rickshaws are also seen moving in the city’s most important place, Motijheel.
Experts say that the two city corporations—Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) and Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) -- are responsible for maintaining about 163 km of footpath across the city, of which about 108 km are now under illegal occupation, creating obstacles to free pedestrian movement.
Although it is learned that eviction drives are conducted on a regular basis by the city corporation officials to retake the footpaths, hawkers who are allegedly backed up by police and local political leaders usually return to the previous places after the drive, and rebuild their structures.
Political leaders and activists and law enforcers extort money from the footpath hawkers in exchange for their help, the sources at the DNCC and DSCC claimed.
According to them, some influential political leaders grabbed many footpaths and it is not possible to take action against them without permission from higher authorities.
An official on anonymity, however, said the government has taken an initiative to permanently solve the problem by creating political pressure on those backing the footpath hawkers.
When contacted, Mayor of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) Barrister Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh told Bangladesh Post, “We’re going to take an initiative to evict the footpath shops permanently, but we need some time. We’ll take action against the influential people backing the footpath hawkers.”