Never mind pedestrians and drivers — in Bangalore, it’s the hawkers who have the right of way. These traders and their makeshift shops dot the length and breadth of the City, and most of them do brisk business on a daily basis.
The ware they have to offer is varied — ranging from socks, hair clips, perfume bottles, junk jewellery and packaged food to all manner of ornaments and trinkets — and their establishments are never more than a pushcart or a simple mat spread out on the pavement.
The problem with these hawkers, however, is that they often encroach on sidewalks, parking spaces, narrow lanes and literally any place they can find a couple of square feet to spread out their ware. Their shops are of the kind which can be rolled up and carted off in a split second, which thwarts any attempts by the police to exert some control over them. And the manner in which they ruthlessly pursue business can be rather annoying.
As Manjula, a professional, points out, “You could be walking down the road and they follow you, keep trying to attract your attention to what they have. Sometimes, the way they behave can actually be termed harassment — it’s very annoying.”
Some Bangaloreans talked about the City’s hawker nuisance, and how they feel it can be curbed. Others, however, have no qualms in admitting that there is a market for the kind of goods these hawkers sell.
Aishwarya, a professional, points out that many of these ‘mobile’ stores tend to mushroom around office complexes because they can be assured of good business in such areas. “My office is in Vasanth Nagar, and there are many hawkers who group together on the roads there. They assess the fact that there’s a requirement for their goods, which is why they come — clearly, the people there are supporting them in terms of business. There are many ladies who come with baskets of bananas, paan and cigarettes, and there are lots of professionals who buy things from them,” she says, adding, “the minute these hawkers see a police official approaching, they simply pick up their basket and move on, so I don’t really know how the police can curb this issue.”
While she has no problem with the hawkers’ presence, she admits that some of their habits do annoy her. “I don’t have an issue with them being there — but they often litter the roads and mess up the areas they occupy, which I don’t like,” she says.
Dr Naveen Rao, a plastic surgeon, believes that rather than eliminating the community altogether, the police should make an attempt to organise them better.
“Most of these hawkers belong to the lower strata of society and so they have a lot of public sympathy. But more importantly, there are lots of people who still make purchases from them. Large shopping complexes tend to be expensive. These hawkers, on the other hand, sell similar items at a much lower price,” he explains, adding, “I think it makes better sense for the authorities to come up with a long-term plan.
They need to organise the community in a better manner. For this, it’s essential to identify a place where they can form a market and relocate them properly.”