Street vendors struggle to stay afloat

They urge the government to step in with some form of help

Published - April 20, 2020 03:44 pm IST - Bengaluru

Some of the vendors suffered a setback at least 10 days before the lockdown, after the BBMP cracked down on them as gastroenteritis cases were reported in Bengaluru.SOMASHEKAR G.R.N.

Some of the vendors suffered a setback at least 10 days before the lockdown, after the BBMP cracked down on them as gastroenteritis cases were reported in Bengaluru.SOMASHEKAR G.R.N.

Much as Bengaluru is famous for its pubs and restaurants, the thindi beedi of V.V. Puram, the row of items on Avenue Road, Chickpet and Majestic, and knick-knacks on the popular streets of Malleswaram, Jayanagar and Indiranagar have their own following. But the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown have left the city’s streets bereft not only of its infamous traffic, but also thousands of livelihoods.

Street vendors, constantly in a battle for identity, are faced with a bigger fight for livelihood. Abdul Gaffar would sell clothes and fruits in Vijayanagar. After the lockdown began, he stopped selling clothes and assumed he could continue selling fruits for a living. But today, he sits jobless.

“I have the ID card from the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) but I did not get a pass to function. The police said too many people are asking for passes. Even if I want to go buy fruits and vegetables from Electronics City and Varthur, there are no vehicles. I can go on my two-wheeler, but I have no pass. And I cannot afford to pay Rs. 3,000 on transporting a large quantity of fruits and vegetables because I will have to ensure they are sold in two days. It is a vicious cycle,” he said. His landlord has given him time till the lockdown is over to pay rent. But he is unsure of how long he will continue without work, and worries about his children’s education. He would otherwise be earning Rs. 500 per day.

Manju G., a food vendor, suffered a setback at least 10 days earlier, after the BBMP cracked down on street-side vendors and eateries as cholera and gastroenteritis cases were reported in the city. Mr. Manju, who is the State president of the Akhila Karnataka Raste Badi Vyaparigala Jagruti Okkoota, said he has been out of work since a month-and-a-half. He used to have a cart making omlettes, fried rice and other food items.

“Many street vendors do not even have APL or BPL cards, let alone ID cards. Help is reaching slums, but there are many who live in rented houses. We are people who earn every day to make a living. There are around four-and-a-half lakh street vendors in the State. In Bengaluru, there may be 6,000 food vendors,” he said.

S. Babu, president of the Bengaluru District Street Vendors’ Federation, and a roadside vendor of clothes, urged the government to step in with some form of help.

“Even those who want to sell permitted items are not able to do so because of transport costs and unavailability of passes. The BBMP survey says there are 25,000 street vendors, of which half have got ID cards. If the BBMP conducts a thorough survey, there will be around 1.5 lakh. Of those identified so far, around 7,000 sell fruits and vegetables, and the rest sell other items such as food, chappals, clothes, and plastic items. Once the lockdown is lifted, street vendors will not be able to resume work easily as we are surviving on our savings now,” said.

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