After evicting hawkers from the capital’s footpaths, many complications arose in the rehabilitation project of sending them abroad. As a result, the project has not seen any resolution in the past 10 months.
On the other hand, the list of evicted hawkers prepared by the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) has come under scrutiny. Only 69 of the 2,500 hawkers on that list applied to go abroad.
The evicted hawkers complained that the names of actual hawkers are not on that list. They are unwilling to apply as names of people affiliated with the ruling party have been included.
However, officials of the DSCC claimed that the project is being prepared. With the assistance of the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment, the project will be completed.
Following his promise, DSCC Mayor Sayeed Khokon took the initiative to evict the hawkers from footpaths of the capital at the beginning of this year. The busy areas of Gulistan, Motijheel, Paltan and New Market were cleared of hawkers soon after. To keep the hawkers from coming back, volunteers and retired army personnel were appointed.
Hawkers carried out various demonstrations including blockading the Nagar Bhaban, but DSCC remained firm in its decision.
Afterwards the DSCC announced a rehabilitation plan of send the hawkers abroad; at least 69 hawkers who were evicted applied to go abroad.
Following the decision, Local Government and Engineering Department (LGED) Minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain said that after receiving the application for rehabilitation, there had been a plan to send workers abroad through the Ministry of Expatriates Welfare.
Most of the people DSCC is working with are not hawkers. That is why the response of actual workers does not match the initiative of the corporation.
Rafiqul Islam, a hawker from Gulistan, told the Bangla Tribune: “For the last nine years, I have been a hawker at Bangabandhu Square of Gulistan. The city corporation has evicted us many times. I can not sell on the streets anymore. During the holidays, I sit in front of Shilpakala Academy. I learnt from newspapers and people that the city corporation is sending hawkers abroad. But I do not know whether my name is on that list.”
Bangladesh Hawkers Union Adviser Mursikul Islam Shimul told the Bengali Tribune: “Do the hawkers know about the initiative taken to send the hawkers abroad? We do not want hawkers to create problems for people on the streets. But since the hawkers are citizens too, it is the state’s responsibility to rehabilitate them. And doing that is not so easy.”
He said: “The hawkers were rehabilitated many times in the past too. But the actual hawkers were not rehabilitated. Political leaders were rehabilitated in the name of rehabilitation of hawkers. Besides, there is no link between hawkers and those who joined the meeting on rehabilitation of hawkers.”
DSCC Chief Executive Officer Khan Mohammad Sayeed Bilal told the Bangla Tribune: “There is no significant progress in sending hawkers abroad and making ID cards for them. We are continuing our efforts through the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare.”
However, Chief Estate Officer Kamrul Islam Chowdhury told the Bangla Tribune: “We are working on building the project to send hawkers abroad. The project will be sent for approval to the ministry next week.
“For the rehabilitation of hawkers, the project will also address other issues including short-term lending, sending hawkers through the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET). If the ministry approves then further decision will be taken.’’
The city corporation sources said the bench of Justice Abu Sayeed Ahmad and Justice Khademul Islam Chowdhury ordered the bench to keep footpaths free in 2001. The High Court ordered the authorities to keep the footpaths from Sadarghat and Fisheries building to Shegunbagicha free from possession in 2010 and 2012.
Apart from this, Dhaka City Manual-1982 and Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Ordinance-1976 have asked to keep the footpath free of occupation and suitable for pedestrians to walk.
The article was first published in banglatribune.com