Vending For India

News: Recent decision by multiple municipalities across the state of Gujarat to ban vendors selling non-vegetarian food has led to vendor organizations planning protests across these cities.

What are the critical roles played by street vendors?

Creating substantial employment opportunities. According to a study, 11% of the total urban workforce across India is in street vending.

Street vendors also play an important role in food distribution, food security, as well as in making public spaces safer.

Moreover, households across income classes (rich and poor alike) regularly rely on street vendors for procuring food.

What are the issues faced by Street vendors?

State or city governments crack down frequently on street vendors, in an effort to ‘clean up’ their cities, roads and public spaces. Attempts are also made to relocate public markets to the outskirts of cities.

Violence by police and local officials: In addition, street vendors also face everyday harassment, confiscation of goods, and sometimes violence by police and local level officials on the street. This leads to further exclusion for vendors.

Poor living conditions: Street vendors live in poorly serviced housing, work long hours with long commute times, face difficult conditions in carrying out their daily work.

What steps are being taken to ensure the development of street vendors?

Firstly, India is one of the few countries that recognise the right to work on the street, through the National Policy for Street Vendors, 2004, and the Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending Act, 2014.

– The Acts provide for the formation of a Town Vending Committee. However, the implementation of this remains partial. Evidence suggests that the TVCs have not been formed because the different stakeholders have been unable to work together.

Secondly, Main Bhi Dilli campaign, a collective of civil society organisations, have brought attention to the ways in which urban planning can be more responsive to the needs of street vendors.

Thirdly, government is experimenting with several approaches to address the question of providing social security or assuring basic minimum incomes for the street vendors. For instance, proposals on an urban employment guarantee program.

What is the way forward?

First, Vending should be included in the cities Master Planning process, which would help balance the needs of vendors, pedestrians and vehicular mobility.

Second, an entire Land use category (such as commercial, residential) should not be declared as a no-vending zone. This will help in providing improved amenities for vendors.

Third, adopting the spirit and the letter of the Street Vending Act, will help in forming genuine partnerships with vendor organisations. It will help them in addressing the governance issues related to street vending.

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