Pedestrian satyagraha at Matunga - TOI 31May08 - Pg 9
- Pedestrian satyagraha at Matunga
Mumbai: Perched on metal crutches, septuagenarian V Gopal plugs in his hearing aid and stations himself on a road divider opposite Matunga railway station. Greeting pedestrians with a contagious smile, he hands out pamphlets in Marathi and English and invites passers-by to walk on a hand-painted 6-foot lane at the centre of the road. Taxi driver Azeem, too, parks his cab in a bylane to join a human chain of around 40 activists and later holds up a placard hung around his neck which spells 'If footpaths are for hawkers and roads for cars, where is the pedestrian supposed to go?'.
After chalking out pedestrian lanes in Borivli and Bandra as part of a civil disobedience movement against lopsided public space usage, the Sahasi Padyatris, including senior citizens, residents of the area, activists and even children, on Friday took to the street opposite the Matunga station.
"Anybody who has walked outside Matunga station, especially in the evening, would know of the horrific traffic conditions that prevail here. Besides the entire footpath being occupied by hawkers and shop encroachments, two-thirds of the road is taken up by hawkers and for double-parking, and sometimes even triple parking,'' said spokesperson of Sahasi Padyatri, Krishnaraj Rao.
Even as the activists formed the human chain, harried police and BMC officials showed them court orders and demanded a written explanation of what was being done. They had already started clearing hawkers from the footpath and toeing cars after having received a notice 24-hours before the demonstration.
Sahasi Padyatri Nikhil Desai had anticipated that the authorities would paint a fairer picture fearing media hype and had thus taken photographs of the crowded road just before handing over the notices. "A senior police official had promised us that if we manage to pull this off and free the roads of unlicensed hawkers, he would take it upon himself to look after the road. This a footpath the city can be proud of but instead of 35 licensed hawkers, around 350 have occupied the place. Pedestrians are forced to walk in the middle of the roads,'' he said.DRAWING LIMITS: Activists during Friday's satyagraha in Matunga
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