An International Women’s Day Special. Girl students of a Delhi college are helping street vendors develop a revenue generating model

In the list of challenges faced by the Delhi government, street vendors occupy a significant place. The two have never had an easy relationship and the latter continue to remain unorganised and an exploited lot.

Even as a special committee with Delhi’s Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta as its head is preparing a draft legislation that would regulate the functioning of vendors, a group of students from Jesus and Mary College (JMC) have come up with an idea that they claim will revolutionise street vending.

Following a nine-month-long research project, students of JMC’s Economics Department have developed a vendor guide, a website, a proposal for a revenue generating cooperative and a cart, which was recently displayed at Antardhwani, a cultural three-day festival of innovations of students, organised by the Delhi University.

While Srishti Chauhan, Bhavya Arora, Sakshi Kapur, Niharika Khatana and Kanika Gupta are final year students, Sonia Patel, Mitali Seth, Amorita Goel, Easha Guha and Sonal are in their second year and all of them came together to work on this exhaustive project, which was funded by the University Grants Commission. “The basic aim was to realise the socio-economic significance of street vending in Delhi. According to our data analysis, their total contribution to GDP is 0.34 per cent which is quite substantial but still nobody realises their worth. They also bring down our cost of living in urban cities. According to NASVI (National Association of Street Vendors of India), there are 3.5 lakh street vendors in India but they are not taken seriously,” says Srishti Chauhan explaining the need for a new model.

The State law is in conflict with the Central law and it makes their status ambiguous. “While according to the Police Act, no person shall cause obstruction in any street, the Central law says it is the right of every person to earn his or her livelihood,” says Srishti. Street vendors themselves aren’t aware of their rights, which make them vulnerable to harassment. The vendor guide comes into play here. In both English and Hindi, the guide intends to empower street vendors by making them aware about rules and regulations, their rights and responsibilities. “We surveyed about 1,200 of them out of which only 17 per cent had licenses and only 20 per cent knew that they require a license.”

The project is also proposing a revenue generating cooperative model which will work by dividing Delhi into four geographical zones. “Each zone will have a cooperative of street vendors of that area. And being a member of that cooperative, the street vendor will be given a right to vend in that area. It will give them access to childcare, healthcare, loan, etc.,” explains Srishti.

The third important component of this project is an eco-friendly cart with highlighting features of display, security, storage, garbage disposal and compactness and the leeway to dismantle. The cart has been created after surveying the needs of the vendors.

“Firstly they don’t have place for storage. Vendors in Janpath told us that their wares, especially clothes, get spoilt because of direct sunlight. Vendors in R.K. Puram complained that the wood in their carts rots during monsoon. At India Gate, they said they have problems as the onus of garbage strewn around is placed on them rather than on the consumers,” says Srishti.

So, the new cart, largely designed by Easha Guha, has been created keeping in mind the above mentioned issues. “The biggest challenge was optimum utilisation of space and giving more storage space to the vendor. The current model which we see on roads is a flat board on wheels not allowing enough display area. We have added more shelves to the cart. It can be completely dismantled and can be even locked. We are trying for a gear lock now,” reveals Easha. Made of metal steel with roof of bamboo mats, it is more vertical than horizontal, measuring 5 feet by 3 feet.

For the benefit of consumers, the students have also designed a website, which will enable them to trace the hawker or street vendor they have made a purchase from. They can give feedback about his product, rate his product and get back in case of any problem.

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