Who will Help the Hawkers Survive?
Unaware of their rights, street vendors are forced to pay bribes in order to make a meagre wage
"We have no work, post Covid lockdown the situation is even worse. Inflation is on the surge, making everything expensive. I'm so worried about my family," says Rajneesh, a 47-year-old street vendor at Sarojini Nagar, Delhi. He and other street vendors like him are essential for common citizens to be able to buy things for their everyday needs. From vegetables, fruits to mouth-watering street foods, many of us are dependent on these reliable vendors in many ways.
But, the street vendors themselves are going through problems which cannot even be imagined. "Today I earned just Rs.200, but I have no option but to sit on the roadside and work. The police say 'you can't sit here, go somewhere else.' But where am I supposed to go? I have nothing except this. I have little kids, I need to look after them. I have no fixed income," says Meena (53).
The vendors face problems of displacement, bribe payment, inability to access various government facilities, lack of basic facilities such as toilets. In a city like Delhi, where 2.5% of the population consists of street vendors, they find it difficult to survive."Municipal corporation of Delhi took away my stuff. I went there, paid the heavy penalty and brought my items back. I come from a poor family. I cannot afford to pay such fines," said Ramkumari (38). "The covid lockdown has been a nightmare for me. My son is just 15 years old and is helping me sell fruits and vegetables. Our financial crisis has forced him to drop his studies," she added.
The majority of street vendors are not even aware of the The street vendors (protection of livelihood and regulation of street vending) Act, 2014. "Every other day cops arrive and trouble us. I can't explain what pressure it builds up on me. My mental state has been fragile for a long time. I can't find any other alternative," said Anuj (44), adding "the centre's scheme of providing Rs 10,000 did not go well. Some people did not receive the payment. I received my payment but Rs.10,000 is an insignificant amount, and does not satisfy even basic needs."
Most of the surveys were done during Covid lockdown. Due to this, most of the vendors were not covered. Several street vendors claim even after having a certificate, they were "tortured" by the authorities."inside_editor_caption image_caption hocalwire-draggable float-none" id="info_item_1657603237401">
"All I want is a place to work, where cops and MCD does not threaten or torture us. I want to work peacefully," added Ramkumari. However, little has been done to secure the working environment of street vendors.