14 Apr 2024  |   06:52am IST

Road Encroachment Menace Hurts

Highways are literally being taken over by vendors, who illegally set up shop and sell various items from tender coconuts, watermelons and other items. Also, the Major District Roads (MDR) and other roads are being indiscriminately widened at a tearing pace, but ironically without footpaths, forcing the vendors to squat on roads. This is leading to traffic congestion and many times, even accidents. TEAM HERALD explores the issue and finds out its implications
Road Encroachment Menace Hurts

In the coastal villages of Anjuna, Arpora, Calangute, Candolim, Siolim, Mandrem and Arambol, vendors have illegally set up shop and on roadsides to sell various food items. In the absence of a proper designated market, villagers from these villages are seen sitting by the roadside, endangering life and property.

The situation is worse at nights when there is no system in place to keep a check on this. In recent cases it is seen that migrants also sit the whole evening with their stuff for sale by the roadside.

Primarily the onus lies on the respective village panchayat to ensure that roads are maintained smooth and clear for traffic. Anjuna-Caisua Sarpanch, Laxmidas Chimulkar said that from time-to-time, the village panchayat takes action and keeps the roads free from encroachment but within a few days the vendors sit back again. 

“We regularly maintain checks and drive them out but after a few days they come back and again people question us. Somehow there needs to be strict rules in place which can act as a deterrent. We can at the most drive them out or tell police to ensure that the area is kept free, but the question is how long are we supposed to do it?” Chimulkar sought to know.

Government departments also seemed to stay clear of any controversy as sometimes it is the vote bank of politicians that matter and government servants do not wish to get in any bad books with the politicians.

However, Mahesh Shetty, PWD Assistant Engineer of sub division IV, Mapusa was quite candid in admitting that the PWD also has limited power to act According to him, illegal structures and encroachments are two different terms in the government dictionary and the rule is quite strict for illegal structures but takes a long course to define encroachments.

“Anything constructed in the road setback area as defined by the government is illegal and has to be demolished sooner or later. There are no two ways about it. Illegal means strictly illegal and that too within the setback area and for this the municipal councils and village panchayats must ensure that setbacks are kept free,” Shetty informed.

He added that earlier the power was with the PWD to ensure that any structures coming up in any area do not violate the setback rules, but now this power is given to the Town and Country Planning (TCP) Department and it is they who make sure that proper setbacks are maintained. 

However, Shetty said that proper scrutiny needs to be done when one talks about ‘encroachments’. 

“As long as the government does not acquire the roadside area for widening the road or for any other purpose we cannot say that encroachments have taken place. In some places people are doing business in their own land which may be touching the road but till such time as the government does not acquire it we cannot claim right over it,” Shetty said.

He further added that acquisition is a long process and is routed through Deputy Collector and various other departments and thereafter all modalities are worked out and the government becomes owner of your land but till such time it is purely through goodwill that roadside areas are acquired but even then it becomes unofficial. 

He said that as of now there was nothing to state that any roadside encroachments have taken place in Mapusa and surrounding areas as the government is still to acquire the land and claim ownership. 

Condition at Cuncolim

At Cuncolim, probably thanks to the narrow stretch of the National Highway, the menace of roadside vendors is not witnessed much except at two places and that too primarily during the tourist season.

The present bus stand and the area near the petrol pump which used to be a major bus stop earlier are the two places where tender coconut and bhel puri vendors are found.

During the tourism season, from November to February end, visitors are seen parking their vehicles near these vendors to devour what they offer and this causes hardships to other motorists as the road gets narrowed due to the parked vehicles.

This place is occupied by trucks that park at the places occupied by these vendors during the off tourism season and hence the problem continues throughout the year.

While only one tender coconut and one bhel puri vendor is seen at the bus stand, at the petrol pump there is one tender coconut and two bhel puri vendors doing business. The tender coconut vendors carry out their business from 9 am till around 6 pm while the bhel puri vendors set up their shop at 3 pm and continue even till midnight at times.

Situation better at 

Curchorem-Sanguem stretch

From Curchorem to Sanguem road the situation is quite different as this stretch is relatively free of roadside vendors except for a few spots at Vodlemol-Cacora, where two to three vendors are sitting regularly selling fruits and sugarcane juice.

The remaining stretch of about five kilometres is totally free from street vendors except on a couple of days in the evening when one spots someone selling bakery products near the Court.

That most people travel by bus on this route, could be one reason why it is not infested with roadside vendors and the two wheeler riders prefer to make their purchases from the local market.

Besides, this road has not changed for the last many years and hence there has been no road widening giving road side vendors any space to encroach upon.

Traffic movement on this road is also minimal particularly since the mining industry has collapsed.

Motorists hassled in Canacona

In Canacona taluka, motorists are hassled quite a bit as vendors are seen sitting on both sides of the National Highway making one wonder why no action is taken against them.

“This is totally against the norms of business and the poor shopkeepers who pay taxes and other fees to the government are the ones who suffer a lot,” said Vishant Prabhu from Loliem.

Besides, Prabhu wondered why people stay silent on this as these vendors encroach upon not only the road, but at times even the footpaths, when people are quick to complain when there is a slight damage to the footpath anywhere.

Karmal Ghat, Gulem is the epicentre of accidents due to road side vendors in Canacona taluka as women sit on both sides of the road to sell their vegetables.

Along the old highway on the road to Poinguinim, there are ladies from Karnataka selling fish especially at the Shristhal junction and below the flyover at Char Rasta.

Provide alternate sites

Besides, in recent times, pickups and goods-carrier rickshaws are parked by the road side to sell fruits. It is indeed surprising that people have still not raised any questions about this road side selling which often causes hindrance to traffic in Canacona.

Former MARG Convenor Prashant Naik said, “If vendors are on the roads then they should be removed. Otherwise the law enacted during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre, protects all the street vendors. The law is clear on that. You cannot remove street vendors unless and until you provide them alternate sites. The law is clear.” 

The government, especially in Margao, has been planning a vendor zone for years together but this has never been successful. The onus is on the government to create a vendor zone. “First you create the zone and then evict them. You cannot deny people their legitimate right to do business or earn by working. Government cannot provide jobs to all. If some Goan or person who is staying in Goa sells fruits, watermelons or tender coconuts why should he or she be deprived of that,” Naik said.

Street Food Vendors Act was enacted by the government way back during UPA time by which you cannot remove the street vendors just like that. If they are on the highways then it is the responsibility of the government to prevent them from coming, in the first place.

“But if they are there for a long time then the government has to make an alternate arrangement for them. I am not supporting any illegality but if they are doing business without disrupting traffic why should they be removed. There are many women selling flowers along the highways because the government has not provided them a proper market,” Naik said.

According to him, the onus is on the government to provide them with a market. They are growing their own vegetable which is Goan in nature but the government does not provide them a market. So where will they sell their produce? 

“These women work so hard to grow the best of the Goan vegetables but where will they sell it? That is why they come on the road. It is the responsibility of the government to provide them with a proper market so that they can sell their local products,” he added.

Member Secretary of MARG, Anant Agni said, “It is risky because they sell the fruits just outside the shoulderline of the roads and the people who buy things, sometimes park their vehicles on the wrong side of the road. Particularly the vehicles are parked by those who gather to buy things from those vendors. That is the biggest danger.”

The government or authorities like the Department of Transport should not allow such vendors to sell the tender coconuts or watermelons on roads. Even you find fisherwomen on roadsides. So all this should be banned because there are markets in almost all villages. 

“The shops with proper licences only should be allowed to sell the products. All those vendors who do the business on the road side should be banned. Sometimes motorists suddenly apply brakes once they see the vendors on the side of roads to purchase fruits. This is also risky,” Agni said. 

There are provisions in both Central as well as State laws that there should be proper space left while constructing roads for two wheelers or pedestrians. But in Goa, you rarely find space left for two wheelers on roads. 

“Even you will find bus bays or truck bays in Maharashtra or Karnataka but they are not found in Goa and that is why vehicles are parked anywhere where people wish to park. 

This also causes accidents,” he added.

Caitan Fernandes, a resident of Nuvem pointed out at the illegal business activities are also going on the roadside at Power House, Aquem up to Rawandfond junction, wherein even fish vendors are noticed seating on the edges of the busy road.

“The illegal business activity on the roadside is one of the major reasons for accidents. But no action is forthcoming,” said Ravi Naik from Aquem.

“Government should have a clear goal of reducing road accident fatalities. They should list strategies for anything coming in the way of reducing fatalities on the road no excuse. Because of these roadside encroached shops customers park there by disturbing smooth flow of traffic, which leads to accidents. Law should be equal to all. Such encroachments are vote banks of politicians, said Dilip Naik, founder, Goa Road Safety Forum, Ponda.

(Inputs by Anil Kumar Mishra, Marcos Gonsalves, Erwin Fonseca, Alfred Fernandes, Ramita Gaonkar and Agison D’Souza)

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