Hawkers push pedestrians off footpaths in Ctg city
Almost all the footpaths along major thoroughfares in Chittagong city have been grabbed by hawkers, causing immense sufferings to pedestrians and creating crippling traffic congestion every day.
Several hundred illegal makeshift shops reduced the width of the footpaths to half at the intersections -- GEC, Agrabad, New Market, No-2 Gate, EPZ, and Bandartila -- which are frequented by people.
Besides, roadside shopping gobbles up the remaining space of the footpaths, forcing pedestrians to walk on the roads risking their lives.
Jobair Hossain, a seventh-grader at Ispahani Public School, said he has to walk on the road while going to school because of the occupied footpath at GEC intersection.
Over 50 makeshift stalls have been built on the footpath from GEC intersection to MES College. Even after being evicted by the authorities concerned several times, the vendors have set up the structures again, said locals.
The same scenario exists in Chittagong Export Processing Zone (EPZ) area. Several pedestrians of the area expressed frustration over the sufferings and blamed the law enforcers for their indifference to the situation.
“We have to risk our lives every day as the footpaths remain occupied by hawkers. It seems there is no authority to protect the rights of pedestrians," said Jalal Uddin, a garment worker.
When garment factories open and close in the area, the roads get swarmed with pedestrians walking on the road and thus leading to hours of horrendous traffic congestion, alleged several drivers using GEC intersection.
In a recent visit to the area, this correspondent found hundreds of illegal shops erected on the footpaths from Navy area to Bandartila intersection, which are being run in connivance with law enforcers and locally influential people.
Hawkers claimed they have to pay a total of Tk 10,000 to Tk 20,000 to set up a shop occupying a space on the footpath. Then each of them pays a monthly charge of Tk 900 for lighting and Tk 250 for "managing" influential locals and law enforcers.
Abdul Alim Molla, who collects the money from hawkers in EPZ area, said they have a committee backed by influential political leaders who oversee that no eviction drive takes place. However, he declined to reveal the names.
The makeshift shops at GEC, Agrabad, New Market, No-2 Gate intersections are also run this way.
Contacted, Chittagong Metropolitan Police Commissioner Abdul Jalil Mandal, who joined in September 2014, said they had evicted the footpath grabbers in EPZ and GEC areas earlier but they returned and started building the structures again, a few metres from their earlier place.
However, he said there is no political pressure to prevent any drive at Agrabad and New Market intersections, but he left the matter to Chittagong City Corporation (CCC).
Admitting that footpath stalls are hindering the normal flow of traffic, the CMP chief said the hawkers at the intersections have left half of the footpaths, and if they evict them, it will be a challenge for them to find an alternative livelihood.
Asked if police approve of the footpath stalls, he said it is not their job to evict the grabbers; the CCC should do it.
Contacted, CCC Executive Magistrate Nazia Shirin said the corporation cannot alone evict the grabbers; to do that, they need political commitment and cooperation from police and local councillors.
Major action will be taken after new CCC mayor AJM Nasir Uddin takes over in July, she added.