Walk-ins reduce as cars zoom past: Under the over, it's no longer business as usual

Written By Unknown on Sabtu, 06 September 2014 | 22.23

MUMBAI: On the puddle between Ajaz Shaikh and the tail end of the Milan Subway flyover, is actor Ajay Devgn. The stoic Bollywood star is a blur as he moves past in his white SUV, but then, Shaikh, 25, has a number plate dealer's eye. It did not miss the chance to laugh at a man with a bag of vegetables inside a passing Jaguar once. The chatty Shaikh likes to watch the world closely from the cement steps of his friend Dilsher Ali's crammed, seat-cover shop, where nothing, not even a bike, stops anymore. Ever since the 700-metre-long overpass shoved the shop back, there is no space. "This road has no meaning," says the number-plate dealer, about the flyover that opened in May last year to help motorists avoid the waterlogged Milan Subway and get to the airport faster. "It only cares for those who want to go up and not the ones on the ground".

On the ground, are a bevy of marble dealers near its Western-Express Highway mouth and a string of auto-repair shops at its SV Road rear, that had to retreat to make way for the flyover. Needless to say , their businesses suffered in the bargain. In fact, last year, the chubby Dilsher Ali, who commutes from Nalasopara to earn a living, had to let go of five workers."Business is almost over now," says the bearded Ali, bouncing as he staples a plastic cover over a bike seat. "My shop used to be at that yellow line," he points at the flyover's marking just a few feet away . "We had lots of parking space. But now ..," trails off Ali, who used to earn Rs 10,000 a day at one point and now makes Rs 2,000 on a good one. "Even if we had been given space under the flyover, it would have been okay ," reasons Ali, whose shop overlooks its tailbone.

It is the nature of spacestarved Mumbai that, sometimes, building a bridge here involves burning a few . While making life easier for motorists, overpasses hurt enterprises over which they glide, especially ones that depended on the urgency of motorists such as petrol pumps, car-repair shops and even restaurants.

Until the Lalbaug flyover opened three years ago, Udupi hotels under it used to be some of the busiest places, recalls Prakash Shetty of Indian Hotels and Restaurants Association. "There was a lot of pedestrian traffic in that area but since there are fewer walk-ins now, they have lost business," says Shetty , citing a fancy restaurant under the Lalbaug flyover, opposite Hindmata the atre, that felt forced to lease out its premises to a bank last year."When a new flyover comes up, illegalities spring up under it," says Ashwin Menda, office bearer of the Thane Hotels Association. "This reduces walkins even further."

While some businesses relocate, most tend to carry on because there is no choice. "I am here because I don't know anything else," says Mohammed Sajid Ali of Al Rahat, a tile shop behind a muck-filled parking area near the Milan flyover.Two years ago, this shop was as big as its business is now small.A 90-ft area dotted with mirrors and tiles, the shop has now shrunk to a mere 30-ft showroom with "a 90%loss". "But BMC and MMRDA have spared the shanties nearby ," he says.

But it's unfair to blame development, feel retailers like Kamlakar Rakshe of Lalbaug's Ladu Samrat, known for its Maharashtrian fare. "It is the businessmen who have failed to evolve," says Rakshe. Of course, development has worked in favour of retailers such as the shops lining the Metro stations.But for people like Ajaz Shaikh, it hasn't fetched much except the chance to see Ajay Devgn crossing a puddle.

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