Smart City a distant dream as encroachments turn entire Nagpur a bazaar

Nagpur: “Good news” is here. Nagpur City is ‘taking giant strides’ towards becoming a ‘Smart City.’ Surprised!! Don’t be. Take rounds of the city and you will find most of the roads, footpaths, public places turned into bazaars. Courtesy mushrooming encroachments of all kinds. The encroachers are expanding their empire under the very nose of NMC babus and police who have been found slumbering and ‘dreaming’ of Nagpur as Smart City.

For want of decisive action on the part of concerned authorities, encroachments are mushrooming in the city. Visiting the commercial hubs of Sitabuldi, Cotton Market, Gandhibagh, Mahal, Itwari, Dharampeth, and many more, one has to do circus and balancing act as footpaths, roads and any open place have been captured by the encroachers who deal an array of items. Pedestrians jostle with each other while wading through the encroached footpaths, roads. Vehicle owners find it an enormous task to inch away through the crowded streets. Illegal occupation on the roads and streets has become a routine in the city where action against the violators is taken off and on, but there is no permanent follow-up plan to maintain the city encroachment-free.

The encroachments on roads and footpaths continue to create traffic problems in the city, leaving the commuters stuck in traffic jams. It is not easy to reach the bus stand in Ganeshpeth even on a two-wheeler as roads leading towards it have been heavily encroached by shopkeepers and street vendors. The encroachments lead to traffic congestion as customers of these vendors add to the woes by parking their vehicles on roads. NMC officials initiate a drive to clear encroachments from roads and footpaths but soon after the drive, shopkeepers again place their items on the roads. For example, the NMC had got rid of encroachments in front of Yeshwant Stadium and created a parking slot. But one can see no signs of parking as the encroachers descended soon after the so-called action of NMC.

Ganeshpeth Bus Stand:
The Ganeshpeth Bus Stand is now “out of bounds” for genuine passengers who want to board bus for going to their destination. Opposite the bus stand is an imposing building of Shetkari Bhavan. At the rear side of the building, some unscrupulous elements are running parking slots up to half kilometre. The parking slots are such haphazard that traffic jams are a regular feature. And the nearby encroachments in huge number ass the problem in multiple dimensions. Shockingly, neither the NMC’s Dhantoli Zone nor traffic police initiate action against the elements for obvious reasons. Encroaching a city road or a footpath in any commercial market is just like getting a piece of cake as anyone can get any place for making a parking stand, a makeshift stall, a shop or a permanent encroachment by ‘shaking hands’ with shopkeepers and relevant authorities.

Santra Market:
The road leading to Santra Market up to Cotton Market has been occupied by encroachers on both the sides. Serpentine traffic jams make it problematic even for pedestrians to traverse on the road. The East Side of Nagpur Railway Station falls on this road. One can guess, correctly, what the visitors to the railway station go through. Construction work of Metro Rail nearby has turned the road and surrounding area a circus.

Mahal the hell:
The condition in the conjested Mahal area could be compared to a “hell.” It would certainly not be an excess. Roadside vendors, haath thelas have turned the roads narrow lanes. And the narrow lanes are visited by thousands and thousands of shoppers on the two, three, four wheelers. One can imagine the resultant traffic chaos. But the authorities have chosen to turn a blind eye and let the Mahal a hell of an area.

Treading in the old-fashioned (narrow lanes, congested commercial and residential buildings) Itwari and Gandhibagh markets is nothing less than a herculean task. Thousands of encroaching vendors on each and every street since years has left the areas unfit for any commercial activity. Anti-encroachment drives at different scales has failed to rid the problem. In fact it has aggravated with passing time.

The encroachments are rampant in Jaripatka markets as well. But the NMC and police didn’t have any comprehensive anti-encroachment policy to get permanent results or they are too weak to succumb to political or other pressures soon after any such drive was launched. It is pertinent to mention here that shopkeepers and trade associations of various markets are also involved in supporting and patronising encroachments outside shops and collect regular monthly rent from the encroachers. At the parking slots along road from Sindhunagar Square to Jaripatka Main Road, encroachers have settled for their business. Road accidents are a routine on this road.
A number of illegal parking stands are also operating on the road with complete ‘permission’ of the government bodies.

To sum up it all, the encroachments have turned the footpaths, streets and open places in the Second Capital City of Nagpur mini-bazaars. It is time the concerned authorities wake from their deep slumber and address the menace with heavy hands. At least for the sake of making Nagpur a Smart City.