The Many Uses of a City Road

By Shweta Singha

I have always understood the road as a path for traffic, but when I focused on market roads such as Janwadi, Paud Phata, or Vadgaon Phata, my idea of a road was altered. People using the road might have different definitions for it, depending on how they use it. For the pedestrians, the road can be a footpath that they create by themselves in the absence of one to walk on. On the other hand, the vendors on the roadside might view roads as a public space in order to set up their stalls and earn a living by selling different goods. Also, for the vehicle drivers, the same road can create connectivities from one place to another. Be it a minor road through a market like Janwadi or be it a major road like Paud Phata, the definition of road can be unique to everyone.

Janwadi Market: Janwadi is an area where a number of lanes meet at a busy junction. Locals have shopped here for almost 60 years. This road does not just lead to a heritage market but also to the homes of a number of residents living there. Since it is a very old market, famous for its household goods, people from far away also travel to visit it. The busy nature of the market keeps the Janwadi road safe and secured. Few of the residents in Janwadi said that they hesitate to walk on the road after the clock strikes 9 at night. By that time, the market shuts down and the road is deserted. The market keeps the road alive!

The road from the eye of a fish vendor at Paud Phata, Pune

Paud Phata Market: On the other hand, it is a completely different scene at the Paud Phata road. Located in between a flyover and an under-expansion mega city residential project, this small market consists vendors selling fruit, fish and meat. It is located at a busy junction where four roads meet. Although the fish vendors sit on the road “illegally”, they do not hesitate to continue their business because of the customers who come to buy their products regularly. Hence, even though this market is dying with the construction of the flyover, increased traffic, presence of traffic police in front of the market and  relocation of vendors due to new constructions like mega city project, the few regular pedestrians who come for a walk in the evening to this market have kept it alive.  

The lady in the picture has been selling fish in the Paud Phata market for almost 25 years now. With an open stall set up right at the junction, people in the cars stop by to look at and buy the fish. There are a few who have been her permanent customers. Some customers also travel from far away places of the city to buy their favourite fish here, the reason she says is their trust in the quality and price of her products. She hopes that the road remains busy forever as it does now because it has kept her business intact. However, the traffic police is a big problem for her business. They do not let people stop by the market. She goes on to say that if the Paud phata road would have been a deserted one, the fish market would have died by now. The fish market continues to live only because of the busy road on which they sit.


‘No Hawkers Zone’ in the footpaths of Vadgaon Phata brings the vendors to the roads

Vadgaon Phata:  Vadgaon Phata is one of those areas where ‘no hawkers zone’ have been demarcated by Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). Since no hawkers zone have been demarcated, few of the sellers have set up their stalls on the road itself, right next to the zone. Also, the pedestrians walk on this road to eat at the famous Maharashtrian food stalls and also buy fruits and vegetables. These food stalls are creating traffic jams. But on the other hand, since the pedestrians and vehicles passing by stop by to enjoy the foods offered by the food stalls, the vendors do not feel afraid to continue their business right there.  

Roads become a source of entertainment at Janwadi, Pune

Gudi Padwa is a festival by the Maharashtrians. Hence, in Janwadi, the above road becomes a ground for celebrations where people gather after performing the puja at their own residences. Laser light shows and DJ playing Bollywood music tracks are organised on the road. Therefore, the Janwadi road becomes a stage of performance on the eve of this festival.

Hence, it can be concluded that roads are multi-functional. A mobile vendor may need the road to sell his/her products. On the other hand, the same road might offer a stationary vendor a space to set up his stall. A road might offer a driving car a route to move from one place to another and the same road might offer the driving car a space to stop by. However, existing road designs do not cater to these multiple needs of the pedestrians, vendors and traffic.

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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