An intersection near the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Rawalpindi is getting crowded by the day. The area falls under the jurisdiction of Rawalpindi Cantonment Board (RCB) but they have failed to remove pushcarts from the intersection.
Chungi No 22 has been a hub of encroachments for the last many years, as fruit and vegetable vendors occupy the three busy roads that meet at the roundabout. Their presence impedes the smooth flow of traffic and causes difficulties for pedestrians. A visit to the crowded intersection about an hour before iftar reveals how messy the area gets. The roads leading to Tench Bhatta, Dhamial and Harley Street have been completely taken over by fruit and vegetable vendors.
“The pavements are encroached upon by the traders and the roads by fruit vendors. Its worse for pedestrians, especially the women and children,” said Chaudhry Ashiq Hussain, who was about to go back home on Chakri Road via public transport.
The prolonged traffic jams and long queues of vehicles are a common sight in the area, said Ashiq, who has to pass through the crowded intersection every day.
“[To me, the only solution is that] the cantonment administration should burn the carts of the encroachers in a bid to stop them from coming out on busy roads. The authorities have set up a model bazaar, adjacent to CMH and stalls have been rented out to the vendors. But instead of running their businesses in the walled bazaar, they come on the roads with impunity,” said Aslam Zafar, President of the area’s Traders’ Union.
He added he has been trying to eliminate pushcarts permanently from the roads; he “even asked the RCB high-ups to intervene”.
The vendors, on the other hand, have their own reasons to stay on the busy roads. “We pay Rs100 to Rs150 daily to the encroachment staff of the RCB to have good business,” said Riaz Ali, who sells apples and grapes.
“It’s easier to sell all the fruit on the open road instead of having a stall in the walled bazaar, where customers don’t visit as frequently. I’m able to sell all my stock daily on the road,” Riaz added. To support his allegation that RCB staff accepted illegal gratification, the fruit vendor said no hawker was seen or allowed in the limits of Chaklala Cantonment Board.
An official of the RCB Encroachment Department, on condition of anonymity, told The Express Tribune that encroachers had proved too powerful to be removed by the RCB staff. Majority of the roadside vendors are permanent residents of Chungi No 22 and there are many Afghans, he said. The official added that the local police was not helping them.
The official said, last week the hawkers smashed the front screens and window panes of two vehicles of RCB that led to registration of criminal cases against the attackers. They, however, obtained bail, owing to the non-cooperative attitude of the RA Bazaar police.
RCB Executive Officer Rana Manzoor Ahmed was not immediately available for a comment.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2011.