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As Bombay cleans up, sellers lose

May 28, 2005|From Reuters

BOMBAY — First they targeted scantily clad women dancers. Now officials are evicting Bombay's famous roadside booksellers.

India's financial capital, renowned for its vibrant street activity and nightlife, has cleared out dozens of hawkers selling used and pirated copies of novels and magazines along a bustling thoroughfare. The street cleanup comes hot on the heels of a statewide move to ban dance bars.

The piles of cheap books near Mumbai University have been popular with budget-conscious students and tourists for four decades, hailed by aficionados as a part of the city's heritage.

"I used to buy all my reference books and lots of other books from there," said Nikita Shah, a 19-year-old student. "Just walking down the street was like making amazing discoveries."

"It is the main access to Churchgate railway station," said Rajendra Wale, assistant commissioner of the municipal corporation. "So to benefit the pedestrians, all the hawkers have been removed."

Book vendors are not the only ones affected. All over Bombay, sellers of produce, snacks and pirated CDs have felt the brunt.

Mohammed, an 18-year-old who sold books on Veer Nariman Road for five years, estimates he has lost more than $1,150 in income since the city evicted him earlier this month.

"We have no place to go," he said. "[The authorities] say that they will do something about it, but when?"

Before the crackdown, Mohammed said he had stayed in business for a while by paying bribes. He now earns just $4.50 on a good day, selling books on a cloth spread on the pavement, which can be bundled up quickly if he has to run from the authorities.

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