ARE the city fathers and the fathers of the Smart City mission not being step-fatherly in creating a food hawkers’ zone next to a public toilet outside the side wall of the Don Bosco High School? There cannot be more uncivil, unhygienic, hazardous and anti-citizen decision. Their idea was to shift the food vendors doing business at different locations in the city to one centralised place. But whoever decided to shift them to near a public toilet can be described as anything but smart. It is callous. It is insensitive. It is unsympathetic to ordinary people who go for affordable refreshments or lunch or dinner to those vendors. The Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP) had been playing football with the food vendors for a long time, kicking them from here to there, there to here, here to somewhere else, not giving them rest. These are poor people doing business and earning their livelihood. Several of them were shifted from the market to near Inox, then brought back to their old places. Some of them were allowed to operate near the Church Square which attracts hundreds of tourists during throughout the day, including late evenings, but the established restaurants lobbied to get them out of there as they were eating into their business. The CCP has shifted them to near the public toilet by the Don Bosco side wall.
Seventeen-odd vendors have been shifted to the ‘hawkers’ zone’ whose crowning glories are stench, stink, rotting trash and disease agents. The result is reduced number of customers. The area is near rickshaw stand, and rickshaws often block the entry. Buses are parked there. There is hardly any place for parking for customers. The CCP has fixed the timings for operation of the business and the vendors have to wind up by 11 p.m. In addition, as the location is away from central spots, the vendors do not draw tourist customers as they were doing when they were operating near the Church Square. Tourists and citizens are not aware of the location and the food vendors cannot afford to advertise their new location to draw customers. The food vendors are aggrieved over the location’s flaws and their relocation.
Earlier this year the state government had notified a scheme for the street vendors under which town vending committees were supposed to prepare a street vending plan with the holding capacity of the street vendors of any particular area or locality being limited to 2.5 per cent of the population of ward, zone or city, as the case may be. Had the CCP used the formula while deciding on relocation of the street food vendors the problem would not have arisen. Too much congestion at the “hawking zone” could lead to problems not only for the vendors but also for their customers, apart from being a health hazard due to its location near the toilet complex. Taking cognisance of the hazards faced by hawkers and customers alike, the CCP should relocate them. Similar facilities could be created in other parts of the city, especially neat the Church Square which is not only a centralised place but also attracts good number of tourists. The other alternative is to close down the public toilet and shift it elsewhere. The new facilities should have facilities for vending food in hygienic condition and for better disposal of waste.
The CCP should also withdraw the timing conditions imposed on the food vendors who cannot afford to operate their business throughout the day. They start their business only around the sunset time which goes on till late in the night. The city fathers could use the provisions under the Goa Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood, Regulation of Street Vending and Licensing) Scheme, 2017, while deciding on the relocation of the street vendors. The CCP decided to shift the vendors away from other places so as to remove impediments to smooth flow of traffic, but it conveniently forgot to act against the abandoned vehicles, which too are a nuisance and eyesore. There are scores of vehicles that are lying abandoned on the city streets and are rotting, some of which are being used as godowns by some shopkeepers. There are shop owners who have encroached upon footpaths. The city fathers can always find safe, healthy, hygienic and pleasant sites for setting up food hawkers’ zones if they can summon a little courage to clear up encroached public places around the city.