Ajaz Ahmad War
Lal Chowk’s Makkah Market is fast becoming a gold mine for the corrupt officials of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation and the local mafia of vendors who have made a fortune out of illegal possession of footpath spaces while at the same times having acquired space in Makkah market under a rehabilitation plan.
Encroachment of footpaths has been a menace for pedestrians as well as motorists. Almost entire area in Civil Lines from Dalgate to Batamaloo has the footpaths illegally occupied by vendors who are a part of an extensive mafia of which municipal employees to are a key component. Pedestrians are often seen walking on the main roads as a result of the widespread and patronized encroachment which often leads to accidents and chaos.
To address this pressing scourge, Makkah market, a small flea market abutting the famous Ganta Ghar in the busy Lal Chowk was established under a rehabilitation policy for these vendors who were asked to evict the streets.
But, not only did the vendors acquire the government allotted spaces in Makkah Market,they continued with the encroachment of the pathways. This under the very nose of the SMC officials who are hand in glove with the vendor mafia in perpetuating the miseries of the common people by running this illegal nexus. There are several instances of a single family occupying many footpath spaces besides getting the government allotted space in the Makkah Market under the rehabilitation scheme. A
While the Jammu and Kashmir government has recently identified five technology-driven smart vending zones to rehabilitate 3000 street vendors, the scenario looks still very bleak as the mafia is too potent to dislodge these vendors even after allotting them alternate spaces at suitable places.
Masses are hoping that the smart vending zone scheme gets implemented but not partially. People expect the physical eviction of these vendors after they get alternate space elsewhere.
In addition to Lal Chowk and its adjacent areas, vendors have encroached upon a sizeable space in major markets of the Srinagar city including Batamaloo, Dalgate, Jehangir Chowk, Polo View, Hari Singh High Street, Maisuma, Soura, Qamarwari, Parimpora, Hazratbal, Kak Sarai Karan Nagar and other areas of downtown and Uptown.