In Focus

Affluent Park 'Illegally', Poor Fined 'On The Sly'

By Manu Shrivastava

A 26-year-old food delivery worker has been fined several times in the last three months for entering from the wrong end into Colaba Market on his two-wheeler. While he was charged for entering through a No-Entry end, he was only going home that lies in Dhobi Chawl at the entrance of the Colaba Market. "For years, I have been entering into Dhobi Chawl on my two-wheeler and parking it outside my house. I can't even park it on the main road as it's a No Parking Zone and there's construction work going on all over the zone," he says.

CHOC-O-BLOCK: Entrance to Colaba Market blocked by parked cars, barricades and hawkers on both ends
He is reluctant to reveal his identity and for obvious fears. And, like him are a dozen others who have been fined in an identical manner and all for "Entering through a No-Entry end." So, what has changed for residents of Dhobi Chawl in Colaba all of a sudden? Residents of the Chawl have no way to enter their chawl that lies at the entrance of the Colaba Market itself, only a few feet within.

Interestingly, among the myriad obstructions at the very entrance of the Colaba Market is a hawker selling coconuts who has set up an illegal stall and places a huge umbrella 'for shade'. That it completely obstructs the No-Entry signage from public view when opened out is the prime cause of the entire confusion but the issue persists, day after day.

HIDDEN: The 'No-Entry' board at the entrance of Colaba Market obscured from public view

So, besides locals of Dhobi Chawl being 'fined' for entering through a No-Entry direction in what appears to them to be a rather strict enforcement of the law, those entering the Colaba Market for the first time, simply cannot see the 'No-Entry' Signage and land up 'breaking the law' and get fined, digitally.

ENTRY POINTS? Vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and all jostle for space

Now, after the lockdown was relaxed, in the last three months, locals maintain, a lady constable has appeared at the spot and has reportedly been 'taking pictures' on the sly of 'offenders' ensuring they get fined digitally. And, then, on a later date, a colleague appears nonchalantly and stops locals while in the vicinity to "check their fine status" and reveals to them their offence and pending status of their fines and tells them to pay up, triggering outrage. The process has turned into a trend of sorts at the spot.

MULTI-WAY: With no clear directions in sight, vehicles move and park arbitrarily in Colaba Market

Now, with the traffic police personnel, two in the zone, fining 'offenders' on the sly without making their presence felt, locals and visitors are collectively outraged at the 'fining' activity that defeats the very purpose of law.

PARKED PAIN: Cars of customers, shoppers stay parked illegally for hours at Colaba Market

"Why do the police act in such clandestine manners?" spews Ganesh Murti Nagar resident Rajaram Bapat who visits his sister at Sundar Nagari in Colaba Market regularly. "They could well stand in uniform in full public view and stop people entering, fine them in person even resolve their issues if valid," he says.

FREE-FOR-ALL: While vehicles move randomly without any rule in place, pedestrians remain at risk
"Now, instead of taking action on the hawkers 'hiding' the No-Entry board from public view, the police instead fine locals who have no option but to pay up the fines which are levied digitally and very difficult to contest," adds Bapat, who claims to be fined on several occasions himself.

FRIGHT TO WALK: Women, senior citizens have no space to move between illegally parked and oncoming vehicles
Colaba's traffic police personnel when contacted, say there is no way the fines could be reversed or argued in person and the party would have to move court. Now, for a party fined Rs 200 or a few thousands of rupees for repeat offences of the same nature to move court and incur further loss of time and revenue, especially in these trying COVID-19 times, is an impossibility. The process seems to defeat the rule of law created for public good. About time the authorities address the issue and resolve it for the locals.

IRATE: Margaret DaCosta
Third Pasta Lane resident and senior citizen, Margaret DaCosta has been outraged at the situation in Colaba Market suffered by local residents for years on end now.

"So many car-owners park their vehicles haphazardly even stall through their entire shopping visits, disrupting traffic and causing jams in the already-congested Colaba Market," she says.

"Why don't the traffic police impound parked vehicles in the Colaba Market even with their drivers seated in, evidently to dodge the law? It is impossible for anyone, especially senior citizens, to even walk through the market. Considering a large number of senior citizens reside in Colaba, an old precinct of Mumbai, the threat to life and limb, that too, in a zone as commonplace as a vegetable market is surprisingly very high."

Colaba Traffic Division's Police Inspector Mubarak Shaikh told The Draft Colaba that the entire Colaba Market was a 'No Parking' zone and that Signages to that effect were being regularly removed by the Market's shopkeepers for their own vehicles and customers. "I will inform the BMC authorities and ensure that the 'No Parking' boards are kept back in place and the impediment at the entrance of Colaba Market and the hawker nuisance is brought to the notice of the BMC too," she adds.

RESPONSIVE: Colaba Traffic Division Police Inspector Mubarak Shaikh says she'll address the issue soon
"Whether it's a local or an outsider, the law remains the same for all," adds Ms Shaikh. "Yet, about the vehicles parked at the entrance of the Market and within the Market, I will be addressing the issue soon," she added. Also, Ms Shaikh assured the publication of increased police presence in the zone to deter nuisance.

NO OPTION: To park, motorists have to stop at the next No Parking zone opposite the market

Sadly, as always, till the issue gets resolved, it's the common man who has to face the brunt of the mismanagement, cough up fines levied arbitrarily and face the risk of injury to body even life owing to the awry traffic movement.

(With inputs from Nivedita Bose)

The Draft Take

The mess at Colaba Market is an issue that needs to be tackled by the Traffic Police and the BMC in tandem. Now, with each passing the buck onto the other, the issue remains unresolved. If vehicles are parked wrongly at the entrance of a lane especially a market, the onus of removing it rests squarely upon the traffic police.

The BMC must ensure illegal hawkers are removed especially from the corner of Colaba Market for hindering traffic movement and obscuring traffic signage from public view. The traffic police must inform the BMC to do so in keeping with their tasks to ensure traffic rules are maintained.

Also, if a shopkeeper removes a 'No Parking' signage wrongly, he should be legally prosecuted for the same. The police must file an FIR Under Section 425 of the Indian Penal Code for Mischief and undertake proper investigation followed by prosecution. Merely identifying the problem as one recurrent without taking appropriate legal action would be perceived as passing the buck and that doesn't solve anything.