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Hawkers, walkers vie for space

STREET VENDING IN BENGALURU
Last Updated : 04 February 2023, 05:18 IST
Last Updated : 04 February 2023, 05:18 IST

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Roads in Gandhi Bazaar, Basavanagudi, are dug up. Work on a hawkers’ zone is in progress nearby. DH Photo/Prashanth H G
Roads in Gandhi Bazaar, Basavanagudi, are dug up. Work on a hawkers’ zone is in progress nearby. DH Photo/Prashanth H G
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Street vendors and parked vehicles block a service road and a footpathin T Dasarahalli. DH Photo/B H Shivakumar
Street vendors and parked vehicles block a service road and a footpathin T Dasarahalli. DH Photo/B H Shivakumar

Street vendors selling vegetables below Bengaluru’s Banashankari Metro station were in for a rude shock when the traffic police started evicting them.

Mediation by MLA Sowmya Reddy and some activists helped them retain the space. However, they are not sure what lies in store for them.

Across the city, street vendors live in constant fear of eviction. About 19,000 street vendors hold ID cards issued by the BBMP five years ago, in February 2018.

“The government has failed to generate jobs. When street vending gives us self-employment and livelihood, why should the government hamper it by evicting us?” says Prakash*, a vendor from Gandhinagar.

“Many vendors have taken loans under the PM-Swanidhi scheme, and are repaying them in instalments. If they are kicked out from the streets how can they repay them?” wonders Akram Pasha*, a vendor from Shivajinagar.

Both of them were at the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) head office on Thursday to submit a request to extend the validity of their identity cards, without which they fear they will be evicted.

The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 mandates surveys and issue of identity cards for all street vendors and offers legal protection to them.

Shoppers, walkers hassled

Narrow footpaths, dug-up roads and demand for parking for the burgeoning vehicle population in the city have pitted street vendors against pedestrians and residents.

Jyothi Kiran, a BCMC Layout resident, explains problems on Kanakapura Road. “Vendors come to residential areas in old and noisy autos, and camp near our apartments. They also make announcements on their mics. This disturbs the residents and three schools in the area,” he says.

He says encroachment of narrow footpaths is another problem. “Two children died after they were hit by vehicles — they were walking on the roads as the footpaths were occupied,” he says.

He says he has not seen town vending committees active in the Rajarajeshwari Nagar zone.

Take the case of Basavanagudi. Satyalaxmi Rao, a resident, says the footpaths of East Anjaneya Temple Street were fully taken up by vendors and parked vehicles. When evicted, the vendors went and settled on West Anjaneya Street, “making the space unhygienic and causing problems to citizens” as she puts it.

The dug-up roads have only added to people’s woes, she says. She is unaware of the town vending committee for the south zone being functional.

Vendors agree that the public should not be troubled. “Shops should be set up with enough space for people to walk,” says Vanaja, a vendor from Gandhi Bazaar, a town vending committee member for BBMP South zone.

She says that in Gandhi Bazaar, the Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) is working on a hawking zone project. About 100 vendors have been identified and will be given space there.

However, the shopkeepers in the area are wary. M Venkatesh, president of the Basavanagudi Traders Association, says, “If someone has a cloth shop, the street vendor sitting in front of it should not be a cloth seller.

“It is like snatching our customers away without paying rent like we do,” he says.

Gururaj Rotti, president of the Heritage Basavanagudi Residential Welfare Forum, says nobody is against street vendors. “Vendors shouldn’t set up businesses in front of homes and shops. They should move when building alterations take place, making way for goods and vehicles,” he says, explaining the stand of the residents.

Gururaj says the half-demolished Basavanagudi flower market can be reconstructed and all vendors accommodated there. If vending is not allowed in any of the streets nearby, customers will be forced to come to this market. It can even have a godown and the storage problem of street vendors can be solved forever, he says. “Let’s learn from Delhi’s Connaught Place model,” he adds.

Problems after eviction

Basavanagudi may have a solution, but that’s not the case with other areas in the city, where the tussle for walking space continues, while BBMP looks the other way.

According to the Act, town vending committees (TVCs) should be formed in every zone and should meet often to resolve issues, conduct surveys, identify vending zones and monitor the implementation of the Act.

Bengaluru has eight zones. Suresh, a TVC member from Rajarajeshwari Nagar zone says that committees have been not been formed anywhere fully, except for his zone.

Bommanahalli zone doesn’t have a TVC, while in the rest of the zones, the committees are half-complete and not functional. Meetings do not happen regularly and there is no clarity on the validity of decisions taken by half-formed
committees.

Meanwhile, C V Shankarappa, a member of the TVC for the Mahadevapura zone, explains that the hawking zones are identified in remote areas, away from natural markets, where people do not visit.

He gives the example of a recent eviction effort by the BBMP in the ITPL area, where it was decided to evict food vendors because “international delegates would be visiting the premises.” The alternative location was a kilometre away.

“There are factory workers from ITPL who get out during the half-an-hour lunch break and eat from street food vendors because the food is cheap and fresh. They save a lot. However, they may not walk longer if vendors are shifted,” he adds.

He says the higher officials understand the concerns and are supportive, and a decision is yet to be taken. Many street vendors complain of harassment from the police, who demand daily bribes. They are unable to counter this.

Survey yet to begin

A BBMP official, preferring anonymity, said that town vending committees have the power to decide issues in each zone. “Town vending committees are functional in all zones except Bommanahalli,” he told DH. The BBMP has floated a tender to identify an agency to survey street vendors. The software for the survey, which has geotagging and geofencing, collects data and stores it directly in servers specified by the BBMP. It is being developed in-house by the BBMP.

An agency identified through bidding will conduct the survey, after which town vending committees must sit and finalise vending zones, says the official.

B Reddy Shankar Babu, who recently took charge as the BBMP Special Commissioner for Welfare, promised to check the progress and do the needful.

How Whitefield drew up a good plan

In 2015, Whitefield Rising conducted a pilot to provide vending spaces on ITPL Main Road and in Pattandur Agrahara. Along with vending zones, no-vending zones were also marked. The street vendors were given ID cards specifying what they would sell.

They were given timings so that the same space could be used by multiple vendors through the day.

The vendors had to be residents of the area. They were validated through their Aadhaar numbers. They had to have trash bins, clean up, or pay BBMP to pick up the trash. Hygiene practices had to be followed, and timings followed strictly. Gas cylinders and fires were not allowed in specified areas.

“Street vending is a part of Indian culture, we have to co-exist with it. Vietnam has a vibrant street-vending culture, and they have a system for it. We also have to standardise street-vending equipment. Nobody should cook in the open,” says Anjali Saini, a member of Whitefield Rising.

The system worked until Covid-19 struck.

Later, the project fell apart because of Metro construction and other problems.

“The BBMP is short-staffed to monitor vending zones, so they need local help for such projects to be successful. People at the ward level should be in touch with street vendors and keep track of whether they are being exploited, whether hygiene practices are being followed etc, and inform officials when needed,” says Anjali.

“Where we got stuck was who gets to stay where and for how long. These are difficult questions and have to be decided by ward committees and area sabhas. If we keep avoiding this, there will never be a solution,” she adds.

“The act says that street vendors provide good service, they provide reasonably good food at a good price. They are also self-employed. We have to realise that they are a requirement given the income disparity we have in society,” says Anjali.

She says cab drivers serving the population in ITPL, domestic worker and others in the lower income brackets cannot afford to eat at restaurants.

Anjali says some cloth, carpet, shoes and accessory shops hire vendors to extend their businesses to the footpath to evade rents, GST and other overheads. She feels this needs to be stopped.

Shankarappa, a town vending committee member from the Mahadevapura zone, agrees.

He says surveys should be conducted and genuine vendors be given geo-tagged ID cards, and only then vending zones be identified.

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Published 04 February 2023, 04:49 IST

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