Of late, the relatively new urban menace of automobile repair corners encroaching on footpath is seen becoming a threat in the making. In earlier stage, the repair works used to be confined to makeshift shops; many calling them mini-garages. These corners continued to transform their character with the passing of years. Whereas their activities were supposed to sell small motor parts, tyres and tubes, oils and greases, and carry out minor repairs etc, they eventually got engaged in bigger jobs done at full-time garages. The problem lay in the fact that these motor-repair shops, at times a few operating side by side, eventually started occupying the vast areas of a footpath. It left a narrow passage for pedestrians. With no one raising their voice of protest, these repair shops now remain defiantly active. As a consequence, almost all the busy points in Dhaka are nowadays found filled with footpath 'garages'.
Peace-loving males somehow manage to cross these areas in silence squeezing themselves through the on-repair small automobiles. Passing along the strip, finally, becomes a dreadful experience to them, though. It is the female passersby who have to face a regular ordeal as they pass by the area. Inanimate objects like motorbikes are no problem. But at times women are made to make their way brushing against the male mechanics.
It is the female pedestrians who suffer the most due to the arrogant presence of these motor-repair shops. It's because they cannot avoid passing through the messy shop fronts. The scenario is terrible with a number of motorbikes kept parked there for a full day. Large and small repair tools lie scattered everywhere making it difficult for women to negotiate their way. The space adjacent to the shop remains filled with larger vehicles in need of urgent repair work. After stopping using the footpath, the female passersby come down to the broader space nearby. In spite of the risk of facing an accident, women find the alternative quite tolerable. The bitter reality is crossing the footpath in some city areas is now a dreadful experience. There are few busy footpaths in the city which are completely free of this scourge.
Although these improvised garages cannot be equated with the makeshift shops on footpaths, in a sense they are. Footpath encroaching hawkers continue to block pedestrian movements. The residents of Dhaka have for decades been used to this menace. In spite of repeated campaigns against the virtually organised open-air vendors, they continue to become ubiquitous. Their defiance against the raids conducted by the two Dhaka City Corporations no longer surprises the footpath users. Days, or even hours, after the eviction of hawkers in these drives, the petty traders are seen creeping back to their earlier business venues. The nonplussed law enforcers have little options in these situations except looking on.
What remains an open-secret is these hawkers remain united under one or another professional platform. These associations conduct their 'trade union' activities to fight for an illegal cause. A number city corporation bodies steered by youngish and spirited mayors were elected on promises of hawker eviction and rehabilitation. After the end of their term, they made their exit. None were able to deal effectively with the hawker menace.
The residents of this bustling city appear to have become inured to the atrocious menace of footpath encroachment. Demands for their shifting to an ideal spot have fallen on deaf years. In the same line, the petty footpath motor-repair shops can also demand that they be relocated to a place exclusive to their businesses. The Dhaka residents cannot do without emergency services ---be those footpath shops or motor repair corners.