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.

 

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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: http://urk.tiss.edu/winter-institute.html

 

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A Day in the Life of a Road-side Car Mechanic

By Kanksshi Agarwal

Our fieldwork focused on street vendors, their livelihood and the awareness around the Street Vendors act of 2014. For me, this experience made a non-hawker story’s who also worked on the streets but out of a an authorised tin-shed, interesting. What makes an authorised shop owner selling on the streets different from hawkers on the same footpath? How are their struggles different?

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Umesh is a well-built young, entrepreneur and mechanic, who offers services on the streets. He operates from a semi-permanent tin structure on the footpath of Laxmi Nagar Road in Pune City. The shop was authorised 30 years ago. It was certified in 1986 as a semi-formal shop for repairing and fixing of automobiles. There are no rules currently talking about such authorised shops, making no provisions for a renewal for their certificate. However, it has kept him out of ambit of the Encroachment Department, the wrath of which the vendors have to bear every other day.

“As a hawker you learn to be persistent about your livelihood which is selling on road or doing business by going around, or settling and fighting for your rights. You will learn to work around the evictions and the encroachment department officials.” — Union Leader of Hawkers’ Association, Pune.

His shop is placed on the footpath, and shares a wall with another mechanic’s business. He is not a vendor, but he works and shares the space with the vendors on the streets. While his shop is authorised, the vendors are still fighting their battle to get certified through the National Street Vendors Act of 2014. Though he is privileged in comparison to a hawker, his ordeals are not any lesser.

Umesh studied engineering in the University in Pune, and was employed at Bajaj. After a span of seven years he was made the head of his department. However, he lost his job in 2008 after a series of firings citing the economic depression as the reason. Today, his daily routine on the footpath is similar to any vendor. He starts his day at 10am in the morning, accesses the public toilet in the area, fetches water from a municipal tap at the end of the road, works in his workshop, and also visits his special customers to repair at the location of their auto-break down. He faces the ridicule like other vendors do from some pedestrians, but he is aware he is not wrong in running his business. Sometimes a street vendor, we noticed, lacks this confidence and self-awareness. While, Umesh says that encroachment is wrong, he believes that commuters, pedestrians, vehicle owners and vendors must all have a right to optimally use public spaces.

Usually the commuters are his daily customers. He lives in a nearby colony. He has a wife, and a kid, whom he aspires to send to a private school. “If I had a formal job, I would have earned equivalent or lesser than what I make as a mechanic, but it would have been easier to get my child admitted to school,” he says speaking of the prejudices against blue-collar workers that sometimes affect prospects of getting their children into good private schools.  “I doubt the education system in this country and the mindset around employability after formal education. I think everyone must be empowered to think about business”.

He compares an employed individual to an entrepreneur/business owner. Skills for running a business can be passed from generation to generation. This he says is not possible in a merit-based organised sector employment. Vendors should be allowed to run businesses since self-employment can prevent them from taking up menial labour jobs with little job security. With his own business he feels free to work, as he works for himself. He thinks vendors are doing a great job by believing in the strength of livelihood generation through networking and honest business making skills. However, he constantly struggles with getting cooperation from his fellow vendors. If he asks someone not to park in front of his shop, as it impedes access to his shop, many ignore his request.

This worries him since his shop is his primary source of income. It is a 5×3 metre shop, and it retains the essence of informal, friendly atmosphere that he missed during his days on working in a corporate formal organisation. Today while working on a tyre, he can sip tea and share ideas on entrepreneurial empowerment that comes with the selling on streets. As I hang around the shop I realise he has acquired some goodwill over the years. People come and chat with him. I asked him, if these were his customers and he said, his customers have now become good friends and share good rapport with him and meet him even without work requirements.  “We are on streets, for (the benefit of) those who use the streets (commuters and pedestrians). They require us to be here for their own easy access,” he says.

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: http://urk.tiss.edu/winter-institute.html

 

 

 

 

Photo Essay: Body as Infrastructure and Street Vending

By Nehal Thorawade

Pune city has close to 25000 vendors who earn their livelihoods by hawking a variety of products from vegetables and fruits to garments and decorative items. For the vendors, these streets serve as workspaces. The display of articles is also of crucial importance. It determines how many products get sold and at what time of the day. Vendors know how to display their articles to attract customers. There is no need of special training or degree to manage their business. The photos in this essay show how creatively the vendors use their body as infrastructure to sell products. Body as the infrastructure of vendors allows them mobility so they can easily move from one place to another with their articles. However, it also comes with a limitation such as they can only sell a limited stock at one time.

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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: http://urk.tiss.edu/winter-institute.html

 

Building Ties: Importance of Networks and Solidarities Among Street Vendors

By Akshata Bhat

The livelihood of street vendors in India is extremely precarious, despite it being an old occupation and all the legal protections the new Street Vendors Act (2014) has provided.  Since it is an “informal” mode of occupation which is mostly carried out on roads, sidewalks and footpaths, making a livelihood out of it depends on the interaction street vendors have with a wide range of people such as customers, pedestrians, traffic police, the local authority, and the state and central government at large. It also centrally depends on unionisation and network building among the vendors themselves. Based on fieldwork done in Juna Bazaar, Mangalwar Peth market and Aundh market, the piece looks at street vendors as entrepreneurs and how networking is crucial to successful business.

Each vendor is like a node in the network that is connected to different types of citizens. This dense network is informed by various parameters that can affect their business such as supply lines, location of vending, customer relationship, solidarity, exchange of resources with other vendors and other types of businesses. The dynamics of this network is also subject to the periodic actions of the municipality, namely the frequent threat of eviction.

In the DAV Public School, Aundh market area, few people are seen on the streets during this hot summer afternoon. Their faces are covered with scarves and heads protected by caps from the dust and sun. There is minimal interaction with the vendors. In the distance, a woman buys some vegetables and walks away. However, not a single vendor has any protection against the sun. There is, however one fast food stall that has tarpaulin to cover the foodstuff, but none for the vendor. The woman who runs that business speaks to us as sweat beads run down her face. She speaks of her fear of getting reported to the municipality by my fellow researchers and I because of the interest we take in her livelihood. People on the streets only inquire about the goods and its price; such an interaction is unexpected.

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In conversation with Shamim.

By the time the sun sets, several other hawkers turn up, set up their stalls and sell their goods. The hawkers occupy the space designed for cycle riders. This is because of the belief held by a resident near the area that “footpaths are for walking… we do want the hawkers, but they must be in the place allocated to them by the municipality”. These residents have formed a Vikas Mandal, that supposedly works for the benefit of both the vendors and the pedestrians.

The vendors are visible on the streets in equal measure of the utility they bring to the customers. However, like other occupations that are practised behind desks in buildings, the intricate nature of their interaction with the other citizens is invisible. “There’s one customer who is loyal to me and helps me in times of need by lending me some things”, says Shamim (name changed to protect privacy), a vendor who sells vegetables in the Aundh Market area. “The rest mostly just bargain with us”, she adds.

Eviction drives are a common feature in the lives of the vendors of Aundh Market. An eviction drive I witnessed first-hand allowed me see the resignation on the faces of the vendors; an acceptance that such an event is a part of their livelihood. Shamim, however, is devastated each time her goods are seized. “I thought of getting together all the women here who constantly face this harassment, but they haven’t responded to the idea… So what can be done…” she says.  

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Union leader with his son at Juna Bazaar.

The union leader of Janiv Hawkers Union mentions that apathy runs strong among those hawkers who are not part of his Union. The Union mediates administrative and legal matters, addresses the grievances of those who communicate with them, and serves as a source of empowerment for hawkers — particularly for women as they have the least access to basic health and hygiene facilities.  However, even among the different types of vendors, there is hostility towards the mobile ones as “they don’t pay the fees”. Therefore, even amongst the Union, formed mainly for the purpose of building strong networks there reigns a similar trend of lack of sustained social connections. The Union is currently a few thousand members strong in Pune, yet the leader says that its representation in the Town Vending Committee is inadequate because the unity dissolves as soon as a problem gets solved.

A market level union at Juna Bazaar in Mangalwar Peth is formed on the strength of hawkers who have been in the business for nearly forty years. Here, the nature of interaction among the vendors is of a different nature. They discuss ways of improving their conditions and demand for shops made of bricks and concrete. Here, we can seen a glimpse of networking where each vendor, who can be represented as a node in a network has equal stake and weight in running their business.

An overall idea about the basic strength of connections in the local networks formed by the two markets and the Janiv Hawkers Union can be represented as shown in the network diagram below:

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Factors contributing to these differences are several such as historical origin of the market — the Juna Bazaar understood as a heritage market and the Aundh market understood as a mix of natural and rehabilitated market, the popularity and influence of market in inviting customers, type of relationship shared with co-vendors- blood relations in Juna Bazaar and near absence of any relationship with co-vendors in Aundh market etc.

Despite similarity in items and the source of supply in the Aundh market, which sells perishable food items bought from the Market Yard, Pune, their social connectivity with the other vendors in the market as a whole remains low.

The opposite is true of the Juna Bazaar where there is a considerable difference in items of supply, yet there exists a strong social connectivity among the vendors even as it varies with those who are new to the business versus the ones that have engaged in it for about a few decades.

Therefore, this paper shows that there exists a direct relation between strong networking and the stability of livelihoods, especially since eviction drives seem lower where unionisation and networks are stronger. This is true only of markets that we studied in Pune.

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: http://urk.tiss.edu/winter-institute.html

Space and the Streets: How Much can Vendors Occupy?

By Guru Kamble

The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 talks about safeguarding rights of streets vendors and their livelihoods. While regulating street vending is important, it is crucial to take into the consideration the space necessary for street vendors to carry out their business successfully on the street. This photo essays argues that if the government, through regulation limits the usage of space that can be occupied by street vendors then it might affect the livelihood of street vendors.

Space requirement varies as per the street vendor. An egg seller might need less space whereas a vegetables vendor might need more. Standardising space for each street vendor may not work. The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) act 2014 does not specify the space that should be given to street vendors, however it talks about the holding capacity of the street or vending zone i.e. the maximum number of street vendors who can be accommodated in any vending zone. However, during my interaction with the encroachment inspector of Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), I found the permissible space allowed by PMC for all street vendors is 5×3 feet (5/3). On the other hand, the Delhi government street vending scheme has mentioned that street vendors can occupy 6×4 feet, which allows for far more space.

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The street vendor on Sinhagad Road sells many vegetables and she needs more space than that permitted by the PMC. If she follows permissible space regulation of the PMC then she will have to stop selling some vegetables, which will affect her income.

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Actual space required for fruits and vegetable street vendors at Vithalwadi Hingne market is far more than the space permitted by the PMC.
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Some street vendors require very less space.  
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Munder Market (Kothrud) constructed by Pune Municipal Corporation allotted 5×4 feet space to each vendor. Though this market was inaugurated in 2010, one of the reasons it failed is that the space allocated was less.

Many street vendors sell many things at the same time and use the space on the streets effectively when left to their own faculties. However, limitation on the space will also put constraints on how many goods the vendors will be able to sell. If less space is allowed then it will adversely affect the livelihoods of the street vendors.  

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: http://urk.tiss.edu/winter-institute.html

 

Targeting Assets: Street Vending and the State’s Eviction Strategies

By Swajal Samrat

The street vendors are of as much importance as any other formal sellers in the market. However, the mainstream argument has been that they encroach public places and even if they are removed from there, their absence won’t be felt. The local authority is constantly trying to remove them from their business and evictions are carried almost every day, in every city. The targets of the Encroachment Departments of Municipalities are the ‘assets’ that these vendors own. Whenever the evictions take place their assets are taken away. The assets owned by these vendors range from their carts, weighing machines, the plastic tents, mats, electricity bulbs etc. The assets are made targets because it incurs higher losses — the street vendors can’t afford to buy new assets every now and then. This blog focuses on these assets that are often built up little by little by the vendor, through small investments over a long period of time.

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WEIGHING MACHINE: It is one of the most important tools required for vending, particularly for fruit and vegetable sellers. Its confiscation stops the business and leaves them helpless for many days; as it takes two to five days and sometimes 15 to 20 days to Encroachment Department (ED) to return these materials. The Street vending act 2014 says that the confiscated goods and assets should be returned in one to two days but the ED officers do not follow this. This complaint was made by many vendors in Pune during the conversation and this is true for all the ten markets we visited.

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THE TENTS: The tents are widely used by the vendors across the city. The sunny weather and the monsoon create a demand for tents made of various materials such as plastic, bed sheets, bamboo sticks, etc. When confiscation takes place, tents are the first target. The tents are expensive. Many a times these tents get damaged so much that it can’t be used again even if returned after ‘Pauti’ (a fine paid to Municipality).

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THE CARTS AND CHAIRS: The mobile vendors mostly use carts to vend across many places, though all the cart user vendors are not mobile. It costs anything between ten to twenty thousand rupees to buy a cart. The carts to these vendors are like their limbs as stated by one vendor. If it gets confiscated their life comes to a standstill. Though the carts are returned, at times the other materials like chairs and tools are not returned by the municipality.

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THE SPACE: The vending place itself is a big asset to the vendors. It determines which customers will visit them when and where, and hence the income of the vendors. They vend on the places where the customers are more in number. Also there are many places where the value of the space has been created by these vendors over period of time. When the above fruitseller’s shop was relocated (to the location shown the left) by the municipality he left a message scrawled in red on the wall saying ‘The fruit shop has been relocated opposite the municipality’. He also left his mobile number for his loyal customers. However, he returned a few days later to his older spot since found no customers there. The spot provided by the municipality, as seen in the image on the left, remains empty. 

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VIRTUAL ASSET: Demonetization compelled many vendors to go for this virtual payment mode. Though very few of them are literate the promotion drive by e-wallet servicers has helped them operate devices and continue their business during demonetization, though they do not completely rely on this payment mode anymore.

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: http://urk.tiss.edu/winter-institute.html

‘Locals’ versus ‘Migrants’: Divisive Forces Within the Street Vending Community

By Shivangi Rajora

In Maharashtra, the ‘sons of the soil’ movement gained traction in the 1960s with the birth of the regional political party Shiv Sena, at a time when the state was experiencing widespread unemployment among its youth. The party targeted non-Marathi speakers who were blamed for stealing jobs which they said were meant for the local Marathi speakers. Since then the movement has continued with varying degrees of intensity, sometimes using violence against the ‘outsiders’, other times limiting itself to provocative newspaper editorials. When migrant vendors were interviewed during fieldwork, they said that the effects of the movement were rarely ever limited to the opinions, they were reflected in the practices of the vendor markets. More often than not, migrant vendors preferred to stick together. They chose their vending spots around each other. Negotiations with the police and the encroachment department were a little more difficult than they are for Marathi-speaking folk. And experience had taught them to not complain. Excerpts from two interviews — one with a local vegetable vendor and another with a migrant kulfi seller — expose the inherent biases and discriminations that have been encouraged by this movement. However, this blog is based on a short study and provides mere glimpses of the sentiments expressed during fieldwork, and may not be indicative of the dynamics of the city which need to be studied in depth.

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‘We had to conduct businesses without any electricity for twenty years’

During fieldwork in the Mahalaxmi vegetable market in Sahakar Nagar, a residential neighbourhood in the southern part of Pune, we asked a vendor if his shop had electricity connection and this is what he had to say:

“When the corporator had build this market in 1994, in order to get electricity connection for all the shops, he asked us to invest half the amount and said he would pay for the other half. Half the people in this mandi are from Tamil Nadu. They don’t even understand our language. These Tamilians did not agree. They didn’t understand what he was saying and refused to consent for the paying half the price for getting the connections. We had to conduct businesses without any electricity for all these years. I only got this connection four months ago. Three other Maharashtrians also got it with me. These Tamilians still work without electricity. People from outside cause a lot of problems. They are taking away our kid’s jobs. They know nothing. It is so easy to get fake certificates and marksheets in UP and Bihar. Our kids actually study. But they never get any jobs. When Lalu was the rail minister, he had special trains running from Bihar to Maharashtra carrying migrants here who would take our jobs. He took advantage of his position of power to get them jobs. When our Kalmadi was the rail minister, he did not make use of the position, he did not even get Marathi-speaking people jobs in Maharashtra itself. Now because they don’t have jobs, our children are turning towards a life of alcoholism and violence. You tell me, if you have a degree but you cannot get a job, what would you do?”

The excerpt of the interview proves that the sentiments of the “sons of the soil” movement remain strong within all sections of the society and market. What the vendor told us was just an opinion, still relatively harmless.

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‘My cart has been confiscated two times, and both times, I had to pay extra.’

An interesting conversation took place with a kulfi vendor in the same market, who belonged to Uttar Pradesh:

“I came to Pune 24 years ago with my cousin. I have been selling kulfi for the last 22 years. I used to work in a kulfi-making unit. This is actually my brother’s cart. When he passed away I took over, it was natural as I already knew how to make kulfi. I am from UP (on being asked his accent was different). I came to Pune with my cousin 24 years ago. I can understand a little bit of Marathi.”

On being further asked if he thought being a non-Marathi speaker was disadvantage, he said, “It was a bit of a problem in the beginning as very few people in the city spoke in Hindi and the language was totally new to me. But I learned to manage. It is all fine now. I have a good sale every evening in the market”. He then, had to be explained that the question was in context of the ‘sons of the soil’ movement that had been popular in the state few years ago with strong political colors to it. He kept denying of any problems he would face. So the conversation progressed to his family history which yielded that he belonged to Mathura in UP, the same place as the author does. This fact probably helped in building of some trust because asking the same question the next led to a different conversation.

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: http://urk.tiss.edu/winter-institute.html