A tale of two footpaths

You don’t have to walk behind Jaynagar 4th block BDA complex (Vendors and BMP have been playing a cat and mouse game here for reasons unknown) to realize how severe the problem of footpath encroachment is. The problem is so rampant in our cities, you don’t even have to search for examples. Why so many of these? Instead of usual blame-the-Gowdas bit, let me tell you about two examples that come to my mind.

Enter Jayanagar. On a street somewhere there, there used to be this “Dosa Camp” that served the best Dosas around. I have eaten 5-6 at one go for my morning breakfasts. Menthya dosa … yum!

One fine day, the joint shrunk itself to half. There were no chairs to sit and eat. And I was forced to stand and eat my favorite dosas. I learnt that a neighboring resident had complained (to whoever), and this Dosa-camp has been told not to run his business on the footpath. Thankfully, the joint had some legal commercial space as well, just that he used to extend it out to the pavements. So the Dosa fun continued, bit more trouble though to stand all the time. Naturally, I was a lot less interested now.

Few months later, I heard that the joint had just vanished. I enquired, and learnt that the friendly neighbor had complained yet again. And since the joint was anyway seeing fewer customers ever since it was forced to shrink and go “legal”, the owner just decided to shut shop and leave.

So, one resident’s fight. And you have clean and walkable pavements in the area. Though I still miss the Dosas.

Next, enter JP Nagar, a cross somewhere there. If you drive a car here, expect a dent every other other week from this array of parked two wheelers. Problem: a bike/scooter mechanic who operates from a 4 feet by 8 feet den. But at any time, you can find him repairing 10 two wheelers at once. And all of these are parked right on the street and whatever trace of footpath that exists. Dirty black soot and oil all around. And just enough width for the cars to pass.

I asked a few residents of the area, why don’t they complain? The answer. The mechanic is a Muslim guy. And there is a mosque nearby, no one wants any trouble. How shall we classify this case? Mistrust of a community? Fear? Or just an excuse not to complain? Or is it that the encroachment isn’t “bad enough” yet to cause inconvenience to residents, case of an overly tolerant neighborhood? I don’t know.

We all get what we want and deserve. Simple. We are okay living with these as of now. The situation is changing slowly, and when we will want an end to these encroachments, these will disappear.

Footnote: I searched around to figure if I am the only blogger to crib about rampant footpath encroachment in our cities. Not a lot of blogs for sure. Found this guy noting the same about Pune. Also found a few ‘seasonal’ newspaper articles on the problem. And a link at Janaagraha, a great organization that helps citizens complain and participate. Something I can’t claim to do.

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