Eviction drive at Fort Kochi; lives of street vendors in peril

 District administration’s eviction drive at Fort Kochi heritage zone has become a routine affair. 

Published: 08th November 2017 10:51 PM  |   Last Updated: 09th November 2017 08:47 AM   |  A+A-

The makeshift shops that line the roadside near Fort Kochi beach  K Shijith

Express News Service

KOCHI: District administration’s eviction drive at Fort Kochi heritage zone has become a routine affair. Hundreds of street vendors, who earn a livelihood on the footpath at Fort Kochi, said the district administration’s drive instead of yielding the desired result ends up causing trouble for them. They demanded a permanent spot for their businesses.Hundreds of makeshift shops made up of plastic sheets selling fish, food and other items line the roads near Jhankar Jetty, Corporation Zonal Office, Vasco da Gama Square, St Francis Church and the police station. The district administration cracked the whip on illegal vendors who had encroached on the road as part of enhancing the tourism potential of Fort Kochi heritage zone.

“We don’t want prime spots for our businesses. The authorities should give the vendors a space to ply their business at Fort Kochi. If they give us a spot and I will shift my stall to the assigned space,” said Sadhique, who was taken into preventive custody on Saturday following skirmishes between the vendors and police during the eviction drive.

Sadhique said he has been running his juice business from the same spot for the past 20 years. “There are many others who have been plying their trade for the past 30 to 40 years. The authorities should identify genuine vendors and allocate an alternate place for them to do business,” he said. “I am not against development.” 

Ali, another vendor, echoed a similar view. He said, the authorities have not taken steps to evict the big encroachers. “We are poor people who earn a livelihood from the small businesses we have on the roadsides. But the authorities don’t give us a thought and are very rude to us,” he said.
The authorities had to wind up the eviction drive after the vendors obtained a stay order from the court. The drive was launched on Saturday. With the validity of the stay order ending on Thursday, the vendors expressed their concern over the bleak future that lies ahead. 

“Many of us have taken loans to set up our businesses. But once the district administration evicts us, I have no idea what we will do. The future looks bleak,” rued Sadhique said. According to him, the traders want a permanent settlement on the issue.The Revenue Department authorities have served eviction notices to owners of makeshift shops made of plastic sheets, fish stalls, food courts, fancy stores. All of them have been termed illegal encroachments. Meanwhile, few vendors approached the court and procured a stay order in their favour. Following this, the eviction drive under the supervision of the RDO ended up in a tussle between the police and vendors.

The drive was then abandoned. Similar drives conducted by the district administration and Kochi corporation the previous years turned out to be a damp squib with the encroachers returning to the same spots within days. The vendors said, the corporation had decided to grant them licences and as part of this, they were given ID cards. “Two days after the corporation distributed the ID cards, the authorities came to evict us,” said Sadhique.

Shibu, who runs the Fort Kochi Tourism Boat Service, had to remove his makeshift office. “Apart from three of us, the others are elderly persons. They assisted the customers. The eviction drive has caused a dip in our business too,” said Shibu.Though the corporation allotted a space for a food court near the Dutch Cemetry area, the vendors are not ready to move since they find the location not ideal for business.

Biz troubles
Hundreds of makeshift shops made up of plastic sheets selling fish, food and other items line the roads near Jhankar Jetty, Corporation Zonal Office, Vasco da Gama Square, St Francis Church and the police station
The district administration cracked the whip on illegal vendors who had encroached on the road as part of enhancing the tourism potential of Fort Kochi heritage zone
Many vendors have been plying their trade for the past 30 to 40 years. Vendors want authorities to identify genuine vendors and allocate an alternate place for them to set up their business 

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