RAWALPINDI: Before the partition of the subcontinent, Shishi Bhushan Street (Babu Bazaar) used to be an ideal residential locality to host Calcutta Office personnel. This residential locality and its surroundings, which used to be a gated residential community during the British Raj, now looks like one commercially thriving slum with small residential units. However, this certainly didn’t happen without the Rawalpindi Cantonment Board’s approval which gets to generate millions through these small yet illegal commercial units. Auto workshops and parked vehicles clogging the bazaar leave little room for pedestrians, particularly women, to walk by.
Ground floors of several houses serve as showrooms for prohibited materials, including inflammable foam mattresses. The authorities remain oblivious to outbreaks of fire. Rickshaws and vehicles parked in seven streets adjoining the bazaar are suspected of ferrying contraband, including narcotics, to nearby localities. An illegal food factory runs in a house adjacent to street No 4. Another one is also in the vicinity.
If the authorities concerned inspect only street Nos 4 and 5, they would come across several illegal food factories, rickshaws with no number plates and wrongly parked vehicles. A search of several showrooms in streets one to seven may reveal startling information about storage of prohibited materials. Material stashed in these warehouses is a safety and security hazard. The showroom keepers must furnish information about their locations and contents stored to the police and other authorities. The RCB’s officials know that in olden days, there used to be gates at entry points of each street. At night these gates were closed for security purposes. The RCB could at least construct small pillars, if not gates, at the corners of all streets to prevent movement of four-wheelers in the streets. Already a shopkeeper has, at his own expense, built a steel gate on the mouth of street No 3 to prevent entry of vehicles inside the street.
The RCB, traffic, taxation and other authorities concerned are requested to inspect the bazaar and its adjoining streets. They are requested to seal all illegal shops and warehouses. They must also remove vehicles and vendors from the locality, confiscate inflammable foam with other incendiary, explosive material (like uncertified LPG cylinders), and close down unhygienic food shops. The electronic media channels may also highlight this issue through a video broadcast of activities in the bazaar and the adjacent streets.
I, for one, personally brought these grievances to the notice of the authorities yet the plea went unheeded by the officials responsible.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2017.