HYDERABAD: Visit Charminar anytime of the day and you are greeted by the usual sights–bandis selling sparkling metallic and coonch bangles, dazzling golden, silver trinkets, colourful clothes studded with stones, vendors selling cups, saucers and other knick-knacks. Add to that, the aroma of ittar wafting in the air or the appetising boti, kebab, paya and other Hyderabadi dishes that have for so many years enchanted us all. However, all these could soon become a memory, if GHMC has its way.
This is due to the fact that thousands of these vendors operating near Charminar are facing the impending crisis of eviction in the name of the Charminar Pedestrian Project (CPP).
Snail pace of project
Initiated 15 years ago, the CPP is aimed at the preservation of the 400-year-old Charminar that is falling prey to indiscriminate commercialisation in close proximity of the heritage monument. The proposed project plans to make the stretch from Madina to Patharghatti a pedestrian zone with plans to lay a granite pavement from Charminar to Gulzar House and Sardar Mahal. Though work on this front began in December 2010, the project has been delayed a lot.
With works halted for the past couple of months, the pits on roads and the dug up soil have turned to into a major nuisance for the businessmen, hawkers and shoppers in the area.
In a recent development, the GHMC again “expressed dissatisfaction on the progress of the project”. GHMC commissioner Somesh Kumar said that the town planning and engineering officials have been directed to take up the demolitions and removal of encroachments at the earliest.
‘Community participation lacking’
While the intention of the project has been lauded, its lackadaisical implementation has come under criticism from all quarters. “The project is based on faulty designing. It also lacks community participation. When the GHMC has not interacted with the local vendors and traders how can it come up with an all-inclusive project?” questions SQ Masood, an RTI and heritage activist. The are also plans to build multi-level parking spots near Chowmallah palace and Naya Pul as identified by the GHMC.
However, the activist calls the project faulty on grounds that there is insufficient open space for the proposed parking areas. “I also think that the facelift will not be able to sustain the three major processions that pass through the area annually,” says Masood.
The rehabilitation of vendors the project proposes to displace is one aspect that the GHMC hasn’t given much thought to.
Mahmood Khan owns a bangles bandi in the Laad Bazar and is the sole bread winner of his family of five. “I am not against preservation of the monument but if we are removed from here where will we go? There is only talks of displacing us but nothing about the rehabilitation,” he rues. There are many who echo his thoughts like septuagenarian Ubaid Pasha who has been selling fruits from the same spot at Madina for over 30 years now. “Even if we are relocated to another place, will tourists visiting the Charminar want to walk all that distance to come to us?” questions Pasha.
GHMC Buck up
Youngsters like 24-year-old Iram Bano who grew up in Chadarghat, old city feel the hustle and bustle is the charm of Charminar. “The area is a little chaotic but that’s the beauty of this place. There should be curbs on motorised traffic but personally I feel these vendors should not be removed,” she opines.
Meanwhile, Ali Asghar, the secretary of Grass Roots Action & Information Network (Grain) says the CPP does not mean the hawkers will be throw out of the area or the “raunak” and charm will be lost. “As per the Street Vendors Act 2014, the civic body has to form a committee with 40 pc representation from the hawkers body and then decide the place where they will be relocated within a set deadline. So far, GHMC hasn’t done this,” informs Ali. However, he adds that if GHMC becomes a little serious, the project will reap fruits.