Street Vending not a curse to Modernization!
Sudipta MoitraStreet vending as a profession has been in existence in India since time immemorial. However, their number has increased manifold in the recent years. Street vendors or Hawkers are important part of urban economy as they have been providing different services and goods to the middle & lower middle-class urban population for decades. They are the convenient retail outlet for the urban population and also a selling and marketing source for thousands of small-scale & home based FMCG, Food Production & other industries. With the increasing urbanization, expansion of urban areas and allied development of cities and mega-cities have made natural existence of vendors in urban markets difficult. Conflict between vendors and law enforcement authority has also grown making them an illegal entity. [read more..]
A study reveals that total turnover of street vendors in the major metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata is 12,000, 10,000 and Rs. 8,772 cores respectively. Due to the lack of organized municipal market street, vendors sell approximately 75% of the total vegetables and fruits in small and big towns. A research conducted by All India Institute of Hygiene & Public Health on the food hawkers highlighted that the food hawkers provides 1000 kilo calories food value in just Rs. 7/-. The food hawkers of India sell more then 200 types of food items which provides a vast variety of choice to the urban poor population. They also act as the social & cultural outlet for large urban population in the fast paced urban lifestyle. For example, tea Hawkers on small crossings and intersections offer a social gathering place where poor and middle class population after a stressed out day at work, assemble and share their thoughts and experiences with a cup of tea. A cup of tea with small snack and lots of chit chat costs the poor not more than Rs.5/(10 cents) whereas the same tea and chit chat at a big multinational cafe costs around Rs. 50-150 (1$- 3$). Thus, the urban vending is not only a source of employment but also provide ‘affordable’ services to the majority of urban population and cannot just be thrown out of the economy. In fact, they should be regulated and then included in the urban infrastructure.The Neo-liberal developmental agenda is on its peak in India with the objective of beautification and development of urban cities. To achieve this objective the urban developmental authorities are carrying out operations all across the country to demolish of squatters and evict of poor vendors living in and around these cities. Biggest vendor eviction program named “Operation Sunshine” was carried out in Kolkata, India. During this operation more then 1 lakh hawkers were evicted of which 3000 hawkers were evicted in a single night stand. This brought hawkers and their families not only miseries in terms of loss of income but also denial of basic right to livelihood.
With the increasing pressures from the law enforcement agencies for evictions, street vendors started to organize. At that time, a federation of all the major and minor hawkers unions named “Hawker Sangram Committee (HSC)” accepted the challenge and waged a battle for survival against the West Bengal Government and Calcutta Municipal Corporation. Bengal government decided to pause this operation after a long struggle of Hawkers and HSC to resist the nefarious attempt to evict them from the pavement in the name of ‘operation sunshine’. However, sadly by this time 18 hawkers had already committed suicide in an attempt to show resentment against inhuman approach of the government. “Hawker Sangram Committee” then fermented the formation of National Hawkers Federation (NHF) in May 2001. NHF is a federation of all hawker associations fighting against eviction of vendors throughout the country. One of the remarkable achievements of NHF was to compel the Central Government to adopt a pro National Policy for Hawkers. NHF also played a pivot role in forming the International Federation of Hawkers.
After all the efforts Kolkata Municipal Corporation declared to give a legal licenses to all the hawkers. The West Bengal Government and Kolkata Municipal Corporation started the Policy Implementation Process and formulated a central Committee called “APEX COMMITTEE” with representation of Mayor or Kolkata Municipal Corporation, Police Commissioner, and the Hawker Union, Association, Federation, Organizations.
The same success story reflected at the national level where Ministry of Urban Employment and Poverty Elevation formulated a policy in 2004 called ‘National Policy on Urban Street Vendors’. This policy justified that the government had lately realized that hawking is not a mere act of fetching income – it serves the countless urban poor in getting their daily needs and services within their means. Even the Supreme Court remarked that the vendors provide general masses with the commodities of daily use at a reasonable price and providing a platform to the small-scale & home-based industries. The National Policy on Urban Street Vendors offered the hawkers an opportunity to carry on their trade legally. However, to achieve objectives of the policy state governments need to play vital role by enacting and enforcing it effectively and making a workable action plan.
Ceaseless struggle for existence earned the hawkers little social and economic recognition but the struggle for them is not yet over…….
National Policy on Urban Street Vendors (http://mhupa NULL.gov NULL.in/policies/natpol NULL.htm)
Mr.Sudipta Moitra is a social activist based in Kolkatta, India. He is associated with the International Federation of Hawkers and Hawker Sangram Committee. He also works for the upliftment of urban poor communities like Slum Dwellers, Cannel Side Dwellers, Transport workers, sex workers, construction workers, Homeless peoples etc.
Republished by Blog Post Promoter (http://www NULL.blogtrafficexchange NULL.com/old-post-promoter)