Recently, for the first time in more than half a century, the bustling vegetable market near my place of residence wore a deserted look. Reason: It had just been a ‘victim’ of a raid against all illegal hawkers, carried out by the Hawk(er) Eye specialist of Mumbai. I write here to describe the mixed reactions of people to this cleanliness drive.
The common man have always talked in support of the demolition man whenever he raided the parties of the biggies. Intrinsically and physiologically ,we feel good (about ourselves) whenever some illegal activities by the super rich and Almighty are brought to task. After all , in a fight involving the powerful and any other individual, the former just has to be perceived wrong. We even equated the demolition man to the super cop which every actor is now possessed to play on the silver screen and thought that at least there is some cop who does something visibly good for the common man. All his deeds were seen as good since they did the common man no particular harm and only added a topic for discussion amongst us, apart from cricket and corruption.
Now, one fine day or rather night, he marshaled his troops and pulled down temporary establishments of all the hawkers ,who as per the law were occupying the market place illegally. The very first reaction from us was that it served the hawkers well for illegal occupying public property. Things did turn sour from the consumer point of view though. The permanent establishments and legal hawkers protested against the drive by shutting shop. Things were no longer amusing when there was not a single gram of vegetable in one of the biggest vegetable markets of Mumbai for more than a week. Not everyone was complaining though. Small centres involved in home delivery of vegetables and nearby super markets saw their businesses grow multiple times in a week’s span. Politicians, as usual got an opportunity of trading charges and fighting over the transfer orders of the Man of the Moment. Media also threw its hat in the ring by sensalising the death of a hawker by equating it to the death of his daughter, the latter caused by natural reasons and not circumstantial ones.
Now, since we were getting affected, we the common man revised our opinions about our good man to suit us. We opinionated that although the drive against illegal encroachments is not bad, still some restraint must be shown, especially while dealing with poor hawkers who struggle to make two ends meet. Nobody has the right to snatch away their only source of living. Suddenly, the compassion and humanity inside us woke up !!! Some questioned why doesn’t the ‘Adharsh‘ cop go after other huge illegal towers constructed in our city and target only the helpless and powerless. In general, people supported the reinstatement of Mr. Clean, but with caveats of their own. After all these events, somewhere I feel we need to accuse ourselves of double-standards and hypocrisy Cleanliness, goodness is good only till it doesn’t affect us. Any good intentioned individual is only good till the point he directly or indirectly does no harm to us….
It is true that the city needs many more Mr. Cleans but unfortunately they always face the music eventually and we are partly and indirectly to blame for the same. There are far too many illegal
activities on at the moment to put on paper. The need of the hour is to publish clear, concise guidelines and rules enlisting legal and illegal activities. Application of the rules should be uniform across sections, power, hierarchy without any caveats. The demolition men need to be rewarded bot reprimanded. In this process, if we as a common man suffer or are inconvenienced a bit, so be it. As a Hindi proverb says ‘Kuch paane ke liye kuch khona padega‘. To achieve a city with a visibly cleaner image, there cannot be any ifs and buts while cleaning up the dirty things. Yes, at the same time it should not look like the drive is politically motivated nor the use of force turn ugly at any time, else the entire purpose of drive against illegality will get defeated in the first place.