Durgam Cheruvu’s street vendors bear the brunt of a directionless GHMC

While Telangana has been identified as a top performer in disbursal of PM SVANidhi loans, the civic body’s failure to demarcate authorised vending spaces is taking a toll on thousands of vendors in Hyderabad

January 31, 2024 10:37 pm | Updated February 01, 2024 12:09 pm IST - HYDERABAD

Food carts and cooking equipment lying in a heap after several roadside eateries were razed by the GHMC, near Durgam Cheruvu in Hyderabad on Wednesday.

Food carts and cooking equipment lying in a heap after several roadside eateries were razed by the GHMC, near Durgam Cheruvu in Hyderabad on Wednesday.

Around the same time Chief Minister A. Revanth Reddy intervened to prevent the police from closing down a popular roadside eatery near Durgam Cheruvu on Wednesday, a contingent of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation’s Serilingampally zonal task force swooped down on street vendors on the other side of the lake, just over a kilometre away.

Using earthmovers, officials demolished the tin-roofed structures, turned the pushcarts and seating arrangements topsy turvy, and warned the vendors not to encroach upon the road again.

“The vendors here keep changing based on the time. Today morning, those selling breakfast were asked to clear the location, and the lunch vendors were told not to set up shop. Later, the officials arrived with trucks and excavators and razed eight to nine shops,” said Shiva, a vendor of rolls.

The demolished structures and carts belonged to those vendors who left the evening before, with little knowledge of what would be in store for them the next day, Mr. Shiva said.

“A week or two later, they collected money and allowed us to reopen the shops,” said Sumitra (name changed), another vendor. None of the vendors working here possess identity cards issued by the GHMC.

“We pleaded for identity cards several times, but they kept dodging us on the pretext that it was a tourism zone,” Ms. Sumitra said. Serilingampally Zonal Commissioner Sneha Shabarish, when contacted, asked the reporter to contact the GHMC Commissioner instead. The Commissioner did not respond to calls.

Kumari Aunty Foods, a small roadside eatery, was shut down by the traffic police a day before, as it was reportedly causing severe traffic issues owing to social media influencers swarming the joint to shoot videos.

Unlike her hapless ilk on the other side of the lake, Ms. Kumari, who runs the joint, has an identity card issued by GHMC. Even that could not save her from almost being evicted.

The two instances point to the gaping chinks in the street vendors policy of the GHMC, which was formulated in 2016 as per the Supreme Court’s directions. Under the policy, so far, 30 town vending committees and 584 common interest groups were formed. A total 1.45 lakh street vendors were surveyed, and 1.34 lakh identity cards were issued, as per information available with the GHMC.

Under the Central government’s PM Street Vendor’s AtmaNirbhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi), loans to the tune of ₹132 crore were sanctioned to the identified vendors in the aftermath of COVID-19, and loans of ₹128 crore were disbursed. Telangana was identified as one of the top-performing States in the country with regard to the loan disbursal.

Despite all these achievements, lack of authorised space to run the street vending businesses remains the core issue to be addressed. Though the initial proposal was to demarcate red, orange and green zones for the street vending, it has not taken shape so far.

Roadside food vending is providing livelihood to lakhs of small entrepreneurs in the city, thanks to the high number of migrant, employee and student populations who look for affordable food options. Several stretches of footpaths on the inner ring road, and areas such as Serilingampally, Jubilee Hills, and Kukatpally are exclusively occupied by food trucks and carts doing thriving business. Except for declaring a ‘food street’ on the footpath near Masab Tank, GHMC has done little to ensure livelihood security for such vendors.

“We all have identity cards, which are of no use when traffic police come to harass us. We need to pay rent for the space, and also bribe the police to allow us to work from here,” says Shivakumar, a fruit vendor at Kothapet.

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