Even as Narendra Modi’s Chai pe Charcha, Namo ke saath makes news across the country, several tea and other roadside vendors in Vadodara and Surat have been forced to pack up ahead of the chief minister’s February 14 visit to both cities. The encroachment departments of both municipal corporations say it has to evict all roadside stalls from the route Modi will take in the city as part of the security protocol. Modi is a Z-plus protected individual, but his security was further upped following the blasts at his Patna rally in October last year. In the ongoing drive against roadside stalls, the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) has evicted close to 240 stalls, according to VMC records.
Although the VMC has no record of the number of stalls – particularly tea-stalls – that it is evicting off roads for the last two days ahead of Modi’s visit to the city, those that have been able to escape the VMC drive account for at least 45 fellow tea vendors, who have been forced to shut shop at various locations that will be part of Modi’s Vadodara visit on Friday. Some lucky ones who have stayed on are those designated as charcha locations. They have been allowed to stay.
On the 2-km Manjalpur-Darbar Chowkdi route alone, at least 10 tea vendors have been evicted since Tuesday. Kanchanlal Mansukhbhai, one of the tea vendors whose shop has been designated as “charcha location”, says, “The corporation has been cracking down on all vendors since the beginning of this week, warning them to leave. If they don’t leave, the corporation will damage the stalls. So, at least 10 tea vendors from the area have packed off. I, too, was planning to shut my shop, but the BJP workers told me that the corporation would not touch my shop because my name has been registered in Gandhinagar for Modiji’s charcha programme. I have stayed back here only because they have assured me that nothing will happen to my stall.” Next to Kanchanlal, a soda stall too has been left untouched because the stall had been chosen to provide “electric supply” to the charcha programme at Kanchanlal’s venue. The owner is unwilling to speak for fear of losing his stall.
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The picture is not different a few meters down the line where Siddhivinayak tea stall, run by an elderly couple, is yet to comply with VMC orders. The lady, who identifies herself as Vimlaben, says, “The corporation officers have told us to vacate the roads because Modiji is coming and the road has to look clean. We do not understand why they are targeting us when they are glorifying his days as a tea vendor. Do they not know how we make ends meet? At least 100 food stalls have been removed from the area.”
A tea stall vendor near Mujmahuda chowk, from where the CM will inaugurate the new flyover, who has also been handed notice to vacate the footpath, is worried that his stall will be seized if he does not comply with the notice. The vendor says, “I have taken off the shade of the stall, but the stove is still there as this is my livelihood. I am not disturbing the movement of traffic.” As part of the ongoing drive from the corporation, officers have been cracking down on roadside vendors. When contacted, VMC encroachment officer Mangesh Jaiswal said the corporation had seized 70 tonnes of raw food material and seized 240 stalls apart from the shades, tables and chairs during the drive, but the crackdown on the CM’s route was different. Jaiswal said, “We have to remove all stalls from the route he will take as it is part of his security protocol. We do not maintain a record of the stalls that are being removed from the route as it is a temporary arrangement. They have been asked to go on their own. If they do not comply to the notice, we will take action against them as they are illegal anyway.”
The same is the case in Surat where Modi is to inaugurate development projects worth Rs 1,008 crore on Friday, including the auditorium dedicated to late actor Sanjeev Kumar, India’s biggest marine aquarium, sewage treatment plant, Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) housing colonies, among others. SMC has started clearing, cleaning up and carpeting of roads falling on Modi’s route.
The encorachment officials in different zones – like Udhna, Limbayat, Athwa, Adajan of SMC – on Tuesday intimated over hundreds of kiosk owners selling tea, fruits, snacks, etc on the roadside and intimated them to shut down or move. Sajan Ukaji Vende, a tea stall owner at Athwagate, said, “My family comprises three daughters and one son. Every now and then, we are told to keep our business establishment closed. We are fed up of such regular harassment by the municipal officials whenever the CM comes. We don’t have enough money to shift our business to other places.”
Executive engineer of Athwa Zone D M Patel said, “We regularly carry out drives to remove encroachment done by snack stall owners on the roadside. We have limited the number of such food carts encroaching the main road from where Modi will pass. We have intimated them to shift to some other places for two days.”