Kochi: The busy Broadway is the trade hub of Ernakulam city. Close on the heels of fire gutting four shops on this landmark road, the civic authorities have launched a clean-up operation to remove illegal extensions which are choking the city’s biggest business street. A civic body team led by Mayor Soumini Jain demolished illegal bunk shops and evicted encroachers. The parking of two-wheelers was confined to a single line to ensure that parked vehicles don’t eat into Broadway’s space.
Soumini said that the inspections would be carried out with the help of police to discourage encroachments and illegal parking of vehicles in the coming days.
In the backdrop of the fire breakout on Broadway, the authorities would also check whether the business units were following the instructions of the Fire and Rescue Services to ensure fire safety, she noted.
The ‘Operation Broadway’ started at 10.30 am on Wednesday. A team of officials and workers from the health department came to Broadway with equipment, including gas cutters and vehicles, to remove the unauthorised structures. The encroachers from the Broadway entrance, near the CSI church, to the Market canal and the illegal bunk shops surrounding the corporation shopping mall were removed in the clean-up drive. Unauthorised extensions protruded from many of the business establishments.
Many shops had planks and sheds on the flanks of the main road to hang their products for sale. Boards were also erected which protruded to the pathway causing great distress even for the pedestrians. Majority of these structures and extensions were removed during ‘Operation Broadway’.
There were several illegal bunk shops around the corporation’s shopping mall. The bunk shops that were fixed using concrete were removed using gas cutters. Some of these shops functioned as food joints and served food in an unhygienic manner. The unauthorised shops surrounding the shopping mall were a hindrance to fire and rescue operations.
The street vendors had decided to remove the bunk shops before the civic officials arrived to demolish the outlets.
The civic authorities have decided to evict encroachers from Cloth Bazar road and other artery roads of the Broadway.
Apart from encroachment, another major issue that is plaguing Broadway is illegal parking. Steps are being taken to stop the practice of parking two-wheelers on different lines on one side of the main road. As banning parking on Broadway could raise serious practical problems, the authorities have decided to restrict the two-wheeler parking to just one line.
Besides Mayor Soumini Jain, standing committee chairpersons A B Sabu, P M Haris, Shiny Mathew, councilor Gracy Babu Jacob spearheaded the drive. The clean-up drive would continue in the coming days.
Though there was protest from street vendors with the backing of certain political leaders, the eviction drive proceeded without any hindrance with the backing of the police. Associations of traders and those running bunk shops protested against the civic body’s clean-up drive. The leaders of the CPM, CITU and BJP supported the erring shop owners. There was altercation between authorities and political leaders.
CPM Ernakulam area secretary P N Seenulal and BJP Ernakulam mandalam president C G Rajagopal were at the forefront of protest against ‘Operation Broadway’. They were protesting against the move to demolish shops without any prior notice or intimation. The civic authorities informed the agitating political leaders that the clean-up drive was conducted as per the directions of the Mayor and it cannot be suspended for any reason.
More police personnel were deployed in the area following request from the Mayor to the city police commissioner. This prompted the leaders to approach the corporation.
A delegation led by ‘Vazhiyora Kachavada Thozhilali’ Union (CITU) district secretary K A Usman, ‘Cherukida Vyapari’ Association district secretary P A Usman and BJP Ernakulam mandalam president C G Rajagopal gave a petition to the Additional Secretary at the corporation office.
Mayor was not at the office when the team visited the corporation.
The civic authorities alleged that the trade representatives mouthed intimidating slogans against the clean-up drive as they left the corporation office.
Broadway and the Ernakulam market will get a new face under the projects envisaged as part of the Central Smart City initiative. Rs 10 crore has been earmarked for the restoration of Broadway and Rs 100 crore to revamp the market. A detailed blueprint of the project is being prepared and after that tender will be called for to execute the work. Plans are anvil to spruce up 500 m of main road between CSI church and market canal on Broadway.
As part of refurbishing the street, tiles will be paved, street lights will be installed, resting places for customers will be arranged, power cables will be laid underground and basic facilities will be put in place, among others. Parking will be banned on Broadway and the space will be opened exclusively for pedestrians. Vehicles will be allowed to enter Broadway during specified periods to load and unload goods and merchandise. The buildings on Broadway won’t come under the restoration programme as they are owned by private individuals. But there are plans to demolish the buildings at the nearby market and build a multi-storey building with ample parking space. Plans are also on anvil to build a skywalk from the market to Menaka Junction.
No bias: Mayor
All encroachers on Broadway would be evicted without any notice and action would be taken against defaulters without any bias if the shop owners extend their businesses to pathways, said the Mayor.
The parking of two-wheelers on a single line is a temporary arrangement and in future parking would be banned on Broadway. There would be periodic inspections in the future and strict action would be taken against law-breakers, she added.
For this, a joint meeting of the police and traffic police would be convened and the help of district collector would be sought, Jain noted.