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Rehabilitate hawkers and free city footpaths

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04th-Dec-2019       
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HAWKERS are, apparently, hell-bent to run their business on footpaths getting patronisation from a section of law enforcement members and local ruling party leaders. And for that reason, the drives conducted by city corporations for evicting temporary footpath shops went in vain. The reality is -- both the city authorities, Dhaka north and south, have failed to free the footpaths for pedestrians. It's a regular phenomenon that city's busiest areas' footpaths remain clogged by hawkers from dawn to midnight resulting in serious trouble to the pedestrians. We think, it's nothing but a drama. The eviction drives are planned so poorly that hawkers usually return hours after being removed. As the extortion economy of the city's footpath is about Tk 900 crore annually --controlled by police, politically influential and city corporation officials - so, the return of the hawkers is evident.
Hawkers get hold of almost half of the 420-kilometres stretch of footpath in the capital city. They set up makeshift structures haphazardly on the pavement blocking the public movement. As a result, the people are compelled to walk on the busy road obstructing free vehicular movement that ultimately causes traffic congestion. In fact, it is one of the major causes why pedestrians face accidents at a high rate in Dhaka. Approximately five lakh hawkers earn bread and butter from footpath business. And a large number of middle and lower-middle-class people literally depend on them for affordable goods ranging from grocery items to home appliances. So, only eviction cannot be a sustainable option for clearing pavements. It needs a long-term rehabilitation programme. Rehabilitating only about 2,506 listed hawkers under political consideration won't end this anomaly. Rather, it would invite additional problems.
Forceful eviction will put some one million people, hawkers and their dependents, in distress. But regulating their business in a systematic way by following the process of other developed countries could bring a permanent solution to the problem. First of all, the real hawkers should be rehabilitated.

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