Pavement sellers, hawkers and pushcart vendors were asked to enrol in the enumeration of street vendors by the city corporation and participate in the discussion to demarcate vending and non-vending zones in the city, as required by National Policy on Urban Street Vendor.

Seeking the cooperation of street vendors, B. Rengarajan, assistant commissioner, Srirangam, invited them to give their suggestions in a meeting to be held next week to implement the national policy. The corporation with consultation of the police and district administration would reach a consensus on ‘who can sell, when and where’ in the city, he said, speaking at a forum at St.Joseph’s College on Friday.

The forum by National Association for Vendors, India, invited stakeholders including police, corporation officials, labour department, researchers to spell out solutions to challenges of street vendors. The corporation is in a quandary, pressed to create space for street vendors while heeding calls for eviction and relocation from consumer forums, said Mr. Rengarajan. “If Mumbai with over 2 lakh street vendors can regulate vending space, it is possible for Tiruchi, a relatively small corporation,” he said, assuring street vendors that the final decision would ensure they could pursue their livelihood, albeit with restrictions on space and movement.

By providing goods at cheaper prices, street vendors make them affordable to weaker sections of society. Taking cognisance of the contribution of street vendors to economic growth, the government should create facilities for vendors to continue their trade without hassles, said N. Mageshwaran, national secretary and state coordinator, National Association for Street Vendors of India. At the local level, the city corporation and police should implement laws protecting their interests.

M.Theresanathan, former assistant director, Field Publicity Department, said the national policy laid down provisions for common toilets, electricity, drinking water, security for merchandise apart from space for selling. The vending committee must conduct periodical surveys, provide identity cards for vendors, review facilities and ensure demarcated space is allotted for every vendor.

Despite the rise in supermarkets and retail stores, street vendors and hawkers render a service by providing perishables and essentials at convenience, said S.Muthukumaran, former vice-chancellor, Bharathidasan University. Street vendors battle not only against nature but also against law enforcers to eke out their living, said A.Jayabala, research scholar, St. Joseph’s College.

Speaking for consumer forums, N.Muthukrishnan, secretary, Tiruchi Distict Consumer Movement, said street vendors should be allowed to pursue their trade without hassles. “We raise objections to vendors only under two circumstances - when vendors verbally or physically assault consumers or when they obstruct traffic or encroach pavements meant for walking.”

Panchapakesan, labour welfare officer, Social Security Scheme, encouraged street vendors to access benefits entitled to them under the welfare board for street vendors. J.Vincent Xavier, assistant professor, Human Resource Management department, St. Joseph’s College spoke on behalf of the department who organised the event.