The agencies claim that the drive is not related to the Games and was, in fact, launched in June this year as routine action. However, it’s only in the past few days that the drive has been intensified and its effect felt all over the city. According to estimates by MCD, there are over one lakh ‘‘illegal’’ vendors in the city. ‘‘Only 5% to 10% of the vendors selling food items on Delhi’s roads have a licence,’’ said an MCD official. Paan shops and cobblers too are being targeted.
They are being removed from all across the city. Reports have been coming in from areas like Dwarka, Vasant Kunj, GK-II, Defence Colony, Lodhi Colony, Lajpat Nagar, Paharganj, Karol Bagh, Chandni Chowk etc. While many vendors have quietly left the city, some are resisting the drive.
Anil, who owns a paan shop in Paharganj, said he has been asked to shift his shop several times since September 20 but he keeps turning up everyday as he has a family of five to support. ‘‘I’ve been told by the police and MCD to shut shop till October 15. If I do that, how will my family survive?’’ he asks.
A policeman near the Paharganj market lamented they were not being very effective.
‘‘We don’t have enough staff to ensure sustained action. Most of our officers are stationed at the venues,’’ he said. The situation was similar in Lajpat Nagar where vendors have refused to go away.
The so-called anti-encroachment drive is inconveniencing people in other ways too. ‘‘A special vegetable market is held in Dwarka every Sunday. But we were told by the vendors that they would not be coming from October 1 to October 17 because of the Games. Apparently, the police have clamped a ban on the bazaar due to security issues. We don’t know what to do now as this market is the only source for vegetables and fruits here,’’ said Shivani Bhattacharya, a resident of Dwarka.
The sweeping nature of this drive can be gauged from the fact that even the Sai Baba temple on Lodhi Road has not been spared. The front gate has been closed to ensure there are no crowds or traffic jams. Now, a side gate gives people access to the shrine. Said a police officer: ‘‘The flower shops around the temple area will remain closed during the Games.’’
Flower shops and small grocery shops have been shut down at GK-II’s M-block market. In Vasant Kunj, people actually signed petitions to prevent removal of a popular chaatwallah but to no avail. ‘‘People are being terrorised in the name of the Games. I wanted to get my shoes repaired and was unable to find a single cobbler in the area,’’ said Shabana Sinha, a resident of Lodhi Road.
In some areas, vendors with valid permissions are also being sent packing if they happen to fall along the route of a Games event.
‘‘We are removing all encroachments on public land along with Delhi Police,’’ said MCD’s press and information director, Deep Mathur. ‘‘The encroachment drive is part of regular action and has nothing to do with the Games.’’ NDMC officials say the same for record.
NO BUSINESS ON ROAD
Number of illegal vendors in city Over 1 lakh
Only 5-10% of vendors selling food on capital roads have the requisite licence, according to MCD. Illegal vendors include vegetable and fruit sellers, pan shops, small shops selling clothes, flower shops, cobblers
MCD and NDMC are removing illegal dhabas as part of the hygiene drive ahead of the Games. MCD has also launched a crackdown on vendors selling street food
Some legal dhabas in certain areas are also being shut down for the period of the Games as they are located on routes leading to Games venues
WHAT AUTHORITIES SAY Civic agencies claim the anti-encroachment drive is a routine exercise and it has nothing to do with the Games
Delhi Police says illegal vendors not only pose a security threat but also cause unnecessary crowding on roads