With the return of hawkers on the footpaths, the busy Gulistan, Purana Paltan, Baitul Mukarram, Motijheel and adjacent areas wore their previous looks.
After a lull of about one year after being evicted, hawkers have started crowding the busy footpaths in and around these commercial hubs. During a visit to Gulistan on Monday noon, a large number of vendors were seen occupying the busy footpaths.
Gulistan, being a transit intersection for both local and inter-district traffic, remains heavily crowded round the clock and passage through it has been a nightmare for years, thanks to illegal road occupancy and haphazard traffic operations.
Locals alleged that a few corrupt police officers and political leaders might have facilitated the return of the hawkers back to the footpaths.
Motaleb Hossain, a footpath hawker at Gulistan area, said shortly after the eviction drives, they got back to the busy footpaths to continue their business.
“As we are illegal, we have to be in good terms with some dishonest policemen, ruling party-backed Hawkers League leaders by paying tolls regularly,” he claimed.
Sources said several lakhs of taka are realised from the poor hawkers as extortion every day.
Sources said the split Dhaka City Corporation and law enforcers cannot keep the hawkers off the footpaths as some dishonest policemen and ruling party-backed Hawkers League are providing them with support.
Last year, the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) in cooperation with the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) launched massive drives against the footpath hawkers stretching from the Motijheel Shapla square to Dainik Bangla crossing to ensure smooth movement of pedestrians.
Footpath hawkers were evicted from in front of Sonali bank, Bangladesh Bank, Dilkusha, Dainik Bangla crossing and Baitul Mukarram mosque.
During the drive, several thousands makeshifts shops set up on footpaths were evicted for free movement of traffic.
Thousands of makeshift shops had sprung up on city footpaths, particularly in Gulistan, Jatrabari, Sayedabad, Mouchak, Shantinagar, Motijheel, New Market, Nilkhet, Nawabpur, Karwan Bazar, Gulshan, Badda, Natun Bazar, Baridhara, Uttara, Mirpur, Farmgate and some other places of the city.
Dhaka South city mayor Sayeed Khokon then in a meeting announced that the hawkers in south city corporation area would be prohibited to sit on city-roads and footpaths for business purpose during office-hours.
The mayor said the hawkers can sit at their respective places after 6:30pm while the holyday markets in different areas would operate simultaneously.
As per his announcement, the city corporation executed the decision from January 15 last year in Gulistan and its adjacent areas.
More than 65 percent of the capital’s footpaths remain illegally occupied, because the authorities of the two city corporations and the Dhaka Metropolitan Police pay little attention to free the pathways from this ordeal.
The two city corporations namely 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.
DNCC sources said street hawkers, vendors and permanent shops had occupied most of the walkways in the capital in various routes.
According to Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), in Dhaka city, 18 percent of existing footpaths are suitable for pavement while the rest is unusable due to car parking, grabbing by hawkers, waste dumping and stockpiling of construction materials.
“The occupation of footpaths by the hawkers is causing pedestrians and commuters to suffer, said BAPA.
According to the hawkers’ leaders, some 2.5 lakh hawkers in the capital have to pay daily tolls to politically backed extortionists to run their business.
DMP Commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia said police are ready to go for action against hawkers. “We have not authority to conduct hawker-eviction drives. Police can only help the city authorities carry out such drives,” he said.