As Hyd officials speed up Charminar pedestrian project, displaced vendors cry foul

"They have just ruined our business overnight," say vendors, who have been forced to make way for the pedestrianisation project.
As Hyd officials speed up Charminar pedestrian project, displaced vendors cry foul
As Hyd officials speed up Charminar pedestrian project, displaced vendors cry foul
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Most shutters had slogans which said that they were protesting against the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC).

Many closed stalls, wrapped up in large polythene covers, suggested that hawkers in the area had also shut voluntarily.

It has been more than a week since vehicles have been banned from entering the area near the monument, leaving ample space for pedestrians.

Despite this, the entire week has witnessed tense scenes around the historic monument that once signified the heart of the city, due to the ongoing Charminar Pedestrianisation Project (CPP).

The project aims to pedestrianise a radius of 220 metres around Charminar, by diverting vehicular traffic through the Inner Ring Road (IRR) and the Outer Ring Road (ORR). With this, it aims to beautify the area around Charminar, on par with heritage sites across the world.

After a recent inspection of the CPP with senior officials of the state government, Principal Secretary Arvind Kumar stated that a team of officials would shortly be sent to Istanbul, Turkey, to study the integration of architecture and heritage structures with transport and tourism.

The entire pedestrianisation project would cost around Rs 35 crore, he said. 

However, the project has not been without repercussions.

Fruit vendors

The fruit vendors who have surrounded the monument for decades were the first ones to be asked to leave on February 24.

Despite putting up a strong protest and managing to stall the decision for a day, a large contingent of police personnel were roped in the next day, along with the Pathergatti corporator of the GHMC and Charminar MLA Syed Ahmed Pasha Quadri.

After a brief talk that lasted for less than 10 minutes, the fruit vendors were asked to shift their stalls to the bus stop nearby.

“I had been there for 40 whole years, and I was escorted out of my place in less than 40 minutes,” says 60-year-old Mahmood as he sells watermelon.

“How is that fair? I have spent more time in my life standing over there, than I’ve spent at home. It is what I do for a living,” he adds.

The vendors say that their business has fallen steeply and they were barely managing to break even.

While the usual sight around Charminar saw close to a hundred vendors, the temporary site near the bus stand hardly saw 20 vendors on Saturday.

“Everyone has left, because it has become so tough to do business. Earlier, we used to open at 6 am, and stay open till around 12 am or 1 am in the night. However, we are not getting a single customer after 11pm these days,” says Moosa, another vendor.

“My grandfather used to do this and my father took over from him, before I took over from my father a few years ago. It has been going on for decades, and they have just ruined our business overnight,” says an angry vendor, refusing to be identified.

Hawkers vs Jewellers

However, fruit vendors were only one of many groups who were making their living around the Charminar.

While their ability to organise may have got them temporary compensation, many other hawkers who sell a variety of things from fidget spinners and travel bags to artificial pearls have been left in the lurch.

A day after the fruit vendors were relocated, officials pushed the hawkers away from the four minarets, and accommodated them in front of archaic jewellery stores nearby.

White squares have been drawn on both sides of the pavement in front of the shutters, to suggest that the hawkers will be allotted a place over there.

“We are less than happy at being shifted, as we will lose a lot of customers. We are still okay with it, as long as they don’t close down our business. However, even the shifting is not happening in a smooth manner as everyone saw what happened,” says Ibrahim, a hawker, as he sits in front of a downed shutter.

What Ibrahim is referring to, is the fact that several jewellers took to the streets on Thursday demanding that the hawkers should not be relocated in front of their shops.

Under the aegis of Jewellers and Sarafa Association, Charminar, several shopkeepers took to the streets and opposed the state government’s move.

“We will not accept this. We have also been running our shops for decades and our customers will be dissuaded to enter the stores, if we have hawkers outside our entrance,” says one jeweller, who had his shutter half-open.

“They will block our customers and many women, who are our main clients, will not want to visit the store,” he adds.

Talks are still on to resolve the stand-off between the two groups and a large amount of police has been deployed in the area, to avoid any untoward incidents.

Hyderabad MP moots bridges

Meanwhile, hoping to find a permanent solution, Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi has urged the Telangana government to construct three bridges across the River Musi to help those who have been displaced.

In a letter addressed to the principal secretary of the Municipal Administration and Urban Development (MAUD) department, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief said that the bridges could accommodate hundreds of hawkers and street vendors.

"Owing to the execution of works under the CPP, these poor vendors and hawkers are facing a lot of difficulty and inconvenience to conduct their business. They need to be accommodated at alternative sites for their livelihood, since they are being displaced from the CPP area. Without their rehabilitation, the CPP cannot be completed successfully," the letter stated.

The Hyderabad MP suggested that two bridges should be constructed between the Afzalgunj Bridge, next to the State Central Library, and the Salarjung Bridge, and the third should be constructed near Osmania General Hospital, which would be convenient for the vendors and hawkers.

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