DENT on OWNERS: 45 days and counting,towing operators have a free run
This year has not begun well for many shop owners at Shivarkar road,the business hub of Fatima Nagar near Pune Camp. Revenues had taken a hit by 40 per cent and for once the economic slowdown is not the villain. In mid-January,the city traffic police decided to do away with parking of any kind on the entire two-km stretch. The reason cited was that there were too many vehicles on this road.
When contacted Deputy Commissioner of Police (traffic) Manoj Patil said parking would be resumed on a trial basis on Tuesday,after a 45-day-long nightmarish experience for residents,with private towing operators given a free run. The shop-owners see no rationale behind this harassment and why parking should be resumed only on a trial basis. Till Tuesday evening,parking had not been restored on Shivarkar road.
With two shopping malls in the area Reliance Mart and Vishal several banks,eating joints,garment shops,convenience stores and medical stores,it has always been a busy street. But weekends,when the area normally hums with activity,now see this shopping junction wearing a deserted look; weekdays are worse. Shopowners say the few customers who do venture to this side of the road are driven away by the towing vehicles that patrol the road constantly,ready to swoop down on any vehicle they find by the roadside.
Shop-owners say the towing agents behave like hooligans. People are afraid their vehicles will get damaged. We watch towing operators on this road daily. They lift vehicles indiscriminately,most of the people settle the bill without receipts to avoid hassles, said Hemantbhai,a sweetmeat shop owner.
Business has fallen by at least 40 per cent because of the inconsistencies in parking rules, he said. Owners did not want their shops be named for fear of reprisal from the police.
On Sunday,Darshan,who works at a garment shop along this road said that even valid parking was not being allowed. Some customers had parked their vehicles in front of the shop,in the shops private space when towing operators tried to take them away, he said. One of the vehicles they tried to tow away was his. When I tried to take some pictures of them in action,they caught hold of me and demanded that I delete the images, he said.
Two years ago,an NGO,Patit Pavan Sanghatana,tried to take up the cause of vehicle owners against towing operators.
This is unilateral action with no scope for the citizens to appeal. Some time back,there was a system in place where the ACP traffic would meet the public on Saturdays,but that has stopped, said Niranjan Phadke,convener. As people cannot appeal,many opt for the easier way out and settle the matter with the operators,he said. Towing operators,however,play down the quantum of money they make. We take around Rs 200 for crane charges; each day we are able to take home only around Rs 800, said Kishore Bakre,contractor for towing away four-wheelers.
Shopowners dont agree. I have seen at least 200 two-wheelers being picked a day near my shop last month. I should know because I had pretty much no business and engaged myself by keeping count, said Hemantbhai.
Fatima Nagar is representative of what is happening on many busy residential areas with commercial spaces across the city.
Manoj Patil said that no parking rule had been implemented on Ganesh Khind road and the Bund garden-COEP stretch as well. But citizens are getting edgy as borne out by what Chandan Shantilal Suaratwala,a resident of Phulewada in the city,has to say: Since the day the stretch from Phule wada to Tiranga Bhavan was declared a no parking zone (on January 10),we have been facing problems. Business of all the shopowners has been hurt.