KOCHI: A section of UDF councillors on Saturday came down heavily against the Corporation council for the recent decision to evict bunk shops operating illegally in the city, signaling a split in the ruling council.
The Corporation had taken a unanimous decision to evict illegal bunk shops and directed health standing committee chairperson V K Minimol to launch a crackdown against street vendors.
Raising the issue, A B Sabu, a prominent member of the ruling council and leader of the street vendors’ union, termed the decision ‘unjustifiable.’
“Statistics show there are 4.56 lakh street vendors in the state, whose sole livelihood is the income from their shops. What is the need to implement the rule in Kochi, while it is not applicable in other centres. As per the Street Vendors Act-2014, street vendors cannot be evicted. The policy of protecting the big traders who flout the rules and evicting street vendors cannot be justified,” said Sabu.
Records show that of the 4,000-odd bunk shops in the city, only 123 wayside eateries and 59 kiosks have permission to operate.
A survey conducted by the National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM) showed that though 2,500 bunk shops are eligible to operate in the city, the Corporation is yet to grant approval to the vendors.
“There are more than 4,000 bunk shops in the city, which pose a major threat to public health. The report of the NULM survey has been submitted to the Corporation secretary, and action will be taken against street vendors after getting the sanction,” said Minimol.
K R Premkumar, a potential candidate for the post of Deputy Mayor, came down against the Welfare Standing Committee chairman and demanded that tax be collected from street vendors and bunk shop operators.
“On average, street vendors earn `5,000-`10,000 daily, but they do not pay tax. If street vendors and bunk shops are allowed to operate, tax should be collected from the traders. We can’t fully agree with Sabu’s statement,” said Premkumar.
“The Corporation should take strict measures to implement the decision. Wayside vendors and illegal shops have become a nuisance for pedestrians as they have encroached upon footpaths at almost all junctions,” said UDF councillor P M Haris.
Responding to Sabu’s statement, the Mayor said only illegal vendors/shops that disrupt the movement of vehicles would be removed in phase-I of the drive, in what seemed a departure from her initial stance.