It has been a decade since the iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj fish market in south Mumbai was declared an ‘extremely dangerous’ structure. Two years ago, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) issued notices to vendors to vacate the premises. The demolition of the structure, near Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Market or Crawford Market, finally started on Friday.
The members of the Mumbai Fresh Fish dealers’ association have alleged they are being forced to shut business for a month, which is when they will be provided temporary sheds nearby. The association comprises 87 licenced fish wholesalers and 157 retailers, and has rejected all alternate shifting options offered by the civic body for lack of facilities. Operational since Independence, this fish market is the only retail and wholesale market in the city. It receives over 150 trucks of fish every day.
According to the notice, the BMC offered five alternatives, including Airoli Naka market in Navi Mumbai, Dadar market and Malad market. The president of Mumbai Fresh Fish dealers’ association, Balwantrao Powar alleged that all these options are an “eyewash to misguide the court”. He said, “None of these are suitable, as no proper space, no basic facilities are available.” He said the Airoli market, on which the BMC was keen, has no toilet facilities and is too far for people to set up businesses. “They are not discussing the lack of facilities and issues that we will be facing if we shift,” he said.
Farooq Fazlani, one of the 87 fish wholesalers, said the BMC has agreed to set up temporary sheds near the market to accommodate them after a month. “We have agreed to bear the losses until then, rather than shift to other locations,” he said.
Defending their decision, civic officials said a lot of fish being sold in the market also comes via Navi Mumbai, and that creating space for vendors near the entrance to the city will be beneficial for them. A civic official said, “We even offered other alternatives, which were rejected, too. It was a dead-end. However, now we are looking at setting up temporary sheds around the original location.”
Meanwhile, another group of vendors has agreed to shift to a temporary alternate location until temporary sheds are set up. They have been operating for a month from a place in Wadi Bunder, on land owned by the Bombay Port Trust. Naseem Khan, one of the vendors from the fish market, said the building is dilapidated. “Instead of risking our lives or being evicted forcefully, shifting to the new market in Airoli seemed to be a better option. However, most of them disagreed.”
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