Action against illegal hawkers has been the big story this week. Imagine such has become the pathetic state of affairs in NMMC that a Cabinet Minister of the stature of Ganesh Naik had to personally come out on the roads, walk the streets and give specific orders to NMMC officials in the presence of the Mayor and corporators to make city roads, footpaths, gardens and playgrounds free of illegal hawkers. So the big question is “When NMMC knew that the illegal hawking was plaguing public places like depots and city roads and footpaths why did officials fail to take action? Why did corporators not raise voice against the same? The fact that the city is being cleaned of illegal hawking makes compels one to wonder “Whether NMMC corporators and officials are inefficient or are they just corrupt?” All hell broke loose for inefficient and corrupt NMMC officials and illegal hawkers in the last janta darbaar when Vashi ward office Ashok Madhvi was called by Thane Guardian Minister Ganesh Naik, reprimanded for not remaining present during the darbaars and was given two hours time to clear Vashi bus depot of illegal hawkers. Within half an hour of the orders, action started at the depot to remove illegal hawkers. Officials who thought they could breathe easy were in for a shock as the entire week the Minister reportedly continuously pursued the issue with NMMC and then at this week’s janta darbaar was mostly about the illegal hawkers’ issue. Women hawkers made a beeline to the darbaar, the Minister heard them but was in no mood to make any exceptions of relief for any illegal hawkers. He stated that the drive was intended to make roads, footpaths, gardens and playgrounds free of illegal hawking. And when the janta darbaar got over, as the Minister had warned, he came out on the roads to check for himself whether NMMC was following his diktats or not. The Minister’s first stop was the Vashi bus depot and from the looks of the half hearted work done by NMMC, the Minister was not very happy. The Minister walked the entire depot and gave instructions to officials. In the presence of the Mayor Sagar Naik, Dy. Mayor Bharat Nakhate, DMC J N Sinnarkar, ward officer Ashok Madhvi and corporators, the Minister once again gave specific orders of what he wanted. His drive did not end here. To the surprise of everyone, the Minister then walked to the Navratna lane of shops in Sector 17, Vashi and personally spoke to the owners asking them to free the marginal space in front of their shops for pedestrians. The first order was given to the handicap booth. He then met with the owners of the shops in this crowded and congested area and warned them of action if they continued to use marginal space illegally. The Minister even asked to remove the banners hanging at shops. The Minister’s next stop was the eating outlets outside Vashi Railway Station. Evidently after the visit when the media asked him about the incomplete work of NMMC officials to clear illegal hawkers at Vashi bus depot, the Minister admitted that illegal hawkers were still there, but NMMC officials have ensured to remove them. A day after the action, Vashi looked fairly clean and clear of hawkers. NMTV News spoke to commuters and citizens to find out their say on the nodes’ new look. The citizens unanimously welcomed the action initiated by the Guardian Minister. So when the citizens are welcoming the action being taken by NMMC, the question is why is it that Thane Guardian Minister Ganesh Naik had to personally walk the city roads and make NMMC to the work they are bound to do under the law? Though reluctantly the Minister too agrees that that action is not taken often due to pressure but no one is above law. For years now illegal hawkers have inconvenienced commuters at depots and railway stations, blocked footpaths creating hassles for pedestrians and littered gardens and playgrounds in the city. And citizens have always demanded action against them. But NMMC officials and corporators sat as mute spectators as hawkers are known to be one of the easiest source of palm greasing for the corrupt corporators-officials nexus in NMMC. Unfortunately, it’s because his own party corporators that rule NMMC failed to fulfill their duty and make NMMC officials accountable on the issue, that it took a cabinet minister of the stature of Ganesh Naik to come out on the roads himself to address this issue. By removing illegal hawkers, the doors have closed for a big source of corruption for NMMC officials and corporators. But hawking is not the only avenue where illegalities are misused for filling the pockets of officials and corporators. FSI violations by builders on Palm Beach Road, illegal conversion of residential into commercial, parking violations in city malls, illegal opening on Palm Beach Road by Hotel Fortune, Palm Beach Galleria and City centers and Satra malls and scores of such issues continue to be ignored by NMMC officials and corporators who are either inefficient or perhaps just corrupt. May be even on these issues, the Thane Guardian Minister Ganesh Naik must intervene to ensure that action is not taken only against the poor but even the rich, influential and mighty violating the law of the land since in the Minister’s own words, no one is above the law. With bureau inputs, Sana Warsia for NMTV News.
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