Vendors seek licences, hawking zones for business

Their existence is shadowed by a constant threat of eviction as there is no legislation to shield them from ‘unfair treatment’ by law-enforcers and local authorities.

While the Street Vendors (Protection and Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill is yet to receive parliamentary nod, the national policy published by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation in 2009 clearly lays out the basic rights of vendors. But, the terms of this document is followed by civic bodies rarely.

The City Corporation had planned the issue of modern push carts and licences and earmarking of hawking zones to ensure hygienic vending and to legitimise the profession.

On Friday, the Town Vending Committee (TVC) sat down for a meeting. But, Kerala Street Vendors’ Forum district committee president C. Sadashivan Nair finds it just to be a ritual.

“This is the third time this committee has got together over the past two years and it appears it exists only during the brief half hour such meetings are in session,” he said. Mr. Nair, a vendor at East Fort for 42 years, said the area was now congested as new vendors came in from outside the city.

He stressed the need to issue licences as stated in the national policy. This, he said, would help protect those who set up shop many years ago.

Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) general secretary Sonia George said experience and standing should be taken into account by means of a survey. There were some 150 women vendors who are part of SEWA. All of them required some sense of permanency in doing business, she said.

Demarcating areas exclusively for ‘informal markets’ was feasible in the city, former Chief Town Planner A. Kasturi Rangan said. “Vacant plots can be identified and let open for vendors to do business during specific hours. It could work on a first-come-first-served basis. Permanent shops could eventually lead to demand for land rights,” he said. Instead, an effective TVC could regulate their work, he said. Identifying streets as weekly market venues was another scheme, he said. Manaveeyam Road, which the Corporation planned to use as a weekly marketplace by next month, was an ideal location, Mr. Kasturi Rangan said.

If the Corporation could formulate a good strategy by employing a subcommittee to demarcate hawking zones and provide modern pushcarts at subsidised rates, it could be woven into the draft Thiruvananthapuram master plan 2013. The civic body would need to do enough groundwork by involving all stakeholders in a consultative process to create a proper framework of rights, Mr. Kasturi Rangan said.