Photo Essay: The Everyday Plight of Mobile Vendors

By Sushil Kumar

Mobile vendors move from one place to another to sell their goods and services. They use four wheeler carts (thella) and two wheelers bicycles, among other things. Some also use their bodies to carry goods from one place to another. Mobile vendors also have fixed areas where they can sell and often move approximately within 1km radius of their spots. The important thing about the vendors we spoke to was that they have no certificate and can be evicted any time by the Encroachment Department (ED). Every day, many said that they had to pay some charges based on the quantity of goods they were caring and yet, often their goods confiscated by the ED. The vendors said that the ED charges approximately Rs 500 on an average every time they are caught. Many of these vendors said that they do not pay fines to release their confiscated good and hence make a loss. Some, over a period of time, have made links with the Encroachment Department’s workers who inform them before the eviction drive.

An old vendor told us that he had to pay Rs 20 every day to the market’s assigned watchman who informs the vendor the moment the encroachment department approaches. However, sometimes he is unable to do this in time and his goods are confiscated and he has to pay a charge Rs 500 to free his goods. While the goods confiscated they don’t receive any kind of receipt from the officers for the release of their goods.



Every morning, the man in the picture comes from a village located outside Pune and goes home at 8pm. He earns Rs 300-350. He pays Rs 20 everyday to the market’s watchman for any information on the Encroachment Department. 


The man in the picture sells ‘mogre ke gajre’ and earns Rs 200 daily. He made them in his home and sells it in the market near the temple. He also has another job and comes for a few hours near the temple to sell the fresh, flower garlands.


This man sells ice cream and kulfi near Tulsibaug all day. He makes ice-cream and kulfi at his home. He invest Rs 200 everyday and earns Rs 400 to 500. He has been evicted by the Encroachment Department several times and has paid fine to rescue his cart. The ED claims that his cart creates traffic problems. He also works another job in his free time.


This van is owned by a person who parks it everyday from 11am to 9pm near Janwadi. He has a registration certificate for permanent vending. He has sold eatables out of his van for eight years. He claims that the ED has also evicted him several times. The staff blames him for blocking traffic at an important junction.

The summer institute is a full-fledged 3 credits course in the academic calendar of the Masters in Urban Policy and Governance program of the School of Habitat Studies at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. It is conducted as a continuous module of approximately 2 weeks  duration, involving immersion in a community and location. This year’s institute studied the socio-political dynamics of street vending, especially in relation to the recent Street Vending Act (2014) that cited key constitutional provisions in support of street vendors and established guidelines for state governments so that the state can safeguard the vendors’ right to livelihood. In the following month, we will be posting some of the students’ research in the form of blogs, photo essays, narratives, life stories and analytical pieces that describe in great detail the everyday lives of vendors and local street markets. Watch this space for more.

To see institute reports from previous batches visit our website:



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