Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Hawkers Evicted from around Bhikhabehram Well

After 30 years, 100 hawkers evicted from Cross Maidan

It was jubilation on Saturday for local residents, who finally succeeded in ridding the southern tip of Cross Maidan of a major nuisance

By Manoj R Nair

Demolition crews from the City Collectorate removed over 100 stalls that had stubbornly resisted all earlier attempts of eviction

For the first time in three decades, pedestrians and motorists travelling to Churchgate via Veer Nariman Road can see Cross Maidan clearly, their vision unhindered by garment stalls that occupied the footpath between the road and the ground.

On Saturday, demolition crews from the City Collectorate removed over 100 stalls that had stubbornly resisted all earlier attempts of eviction. Members of OVAL Trust, which is restoring a section of Cross Maidan, were ecstatic. “This is the most wonderful piece of news I’ve heard in some time,” said Nayana Kathpalia of the trust. Now, the group is converting a corner of the ground into a public park.

The hawkers, who initially had stalls near Museum, were moved to the eastern edge of Cross Maidan in the ’80s. However, the stalls expanded to the area around the centuries-old Bhikha Behram Well, a Parsi-Zoroastrian place of worship, and became a source of nuisance. “They cooked near the stalls and used the ground as a toilet, creating unhygienic conditions near the well,” said Dr Viraf Kapadia, a member of the trust managing the well.

In 2004, the trust approached the committee appointed by SC to rid the area of hawkers. The same year, unidentified vandals destroyed valuable stained glass panels on the well’s canopy.

Speaking on Saturday’s operation, City Collector I A Kundan said: “It was a long-pending issue. I’m glad we managed it.”

On Sunday, however, some hawkers complained they were not given a chance to remove their goods. “If we were served a notice, we would have removed our goods,” said Shivkumar Bharadwaj. “We’ve been doing business here for 30 years and each stall employed at least two people. Hundreds have lost their livelihood.”

The Cross Maidan-Parsi Bavdi Hawker’s Association, which represents the stall owners, said they will meet Monday. “The government action violates the SC order that stays demolition. We will sue the government for contempt of court,” said Vinod Sharma of the association.

But Kundan said: “This place is on Collector’s land and we heard out the hawkers before demolition. Earlier, whenever we tried to get rid of them, they claimed to have a stay order. This time we sought a legal opinion and gave them a chance to produce documents in support of their claims.”