Cash Woes: Street Vending and their Struggles with Demonitisation

By Shravisthha Ajaykumar

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Less than 50% of vendors have access to financial technology. Representational image: Source

 

The sudden news of demonetisation hit India with a fervour that was not entirely unexpected in intensity, but was in duration. It was those who already lacked in funds and did not have access to banking that suffered the brunt of the attack. Across the country, many had family members who were able to exchange old notes for new, or others who were quickly able to deposit the money. However, many were left stranded as they didn’t have access to banking or were not aware of how to proceed with such a facility, or had all their savings in cash and no family to distribute the exchange of such notes without raising suspicion, or facing fines. During the fieldwork at Aundh Market and Juna Bazaar in Pune, multiple vendors were interviewed and emotions ran high.

Everyone interviewed, irrespective of their capacity of business, had a similar response of despondency, bordering on disengagement from the issue. Everyone stated as if it were matter of fact, how it was obvious that they had suffered during the months of November till February. They claimed that everyone was suffering so it wasn’t just a one-man issue.  None of the respondents felt riled up, but they did feel indignant. When they were further probed about how they had dealt with such a travesty, many commented that they had to learn to live in even worse conditions than they already do. One of the vendors, in Juna Bazaar, who sold belts, said that on the night of the declaration, he had already left to return to his village and had returned to the market only in January, so though he didn’t face the worst of the change in market, he said, he did see the difference in the customer’s purchasing power even today.

Another vendor had faced a lot of problems during the month of November because she owned a large stall and couldn’t afford losses; which ensued in the form of lack of customer purchasing power, and even on some days a higher price for the products being bought in the wholesale market. Thus, she decided to adopt an online e-wallet for transactions. Though she didn’t have a business account, she along with her sons, were able to maintain this account with relative ease and though now her monetary situation was revived to its original condition, she and her sons continue to hold greater faith in financial technology, than in liquid cash.

Though the National Urban Livelihoods’ Mission, which aims to address the vulnerabilities of the urban street vendors, covers two important areas; Financial inclusion and; Access to credit, these two areas have not been described in anything more than arbitrary terms, where the mission states that “Under NULM, there will be periodic monitoring of release of funds. However, in order to promote better utilisation of funds under NULM, the idle funds at the central level, which could not be released to the States / UTs, not fulfilling the prescribed criteria, may be diverted to better performing States / UTs (or to centrally administered components) in the 4th quarter of a given financial year, keeping in view their performance and demand for additional funds.” When Mrs. Vaishali Patkar (President of Aundh Mauholla Committee) was enquired about such inclusion or access to credit, in the present Street Vendors (protection of livelihood and regulation) Act, or its presence in the future plan for hawkers in the smart city area business development plan, she was unable to give a clear answer and said there was a separate budget for the act that was being utilised in this concern.

Mr. Sanjay Shanke (founder of Dilasa Janvikas Sanstha and General Secretary of multiple Unions, and member of the TVC) was interviewed, and asked about his opinion on this area of concern for the street vendors, he claimed that neither the NDA nor the UPA government wanted a continued existence of street vendors, mostly because it contrasted the existence of cashlessness. When he was told of the few vendors who had access to new financial technology, his belief was that this was mostly lesser than 50% of the vendors under the Union and thus impractical for financial technology to replace cash. There was further no micro credit that the Union could formally provide, and said this was usually provided by union heads informally, or through the union fund. No specifications were made about the rate of interest if there was one at all.

It is obvious that supporting the vendors in times of economic crises, monetarily, is not possible, however, financial inclusion is a necessary start, and needs to begin at a more public level, where responsibility is not taken up only by private organisations like Paytm and Eko, or by banks like Janalakshmi. Regrettably, none of the vendors who were interviewed are financially aware or secure, they had never gained any formal education on how to be financially secure, and when it came to awareness, they believed informal sources (such as lenders) had no alternatives, and due to face to face interaction were the safest place to loan money from. Those interviewed did not save money, as for most of them money was a hand-to-mouth experience.  Moreover, approximately 15% of those interviewed (14 vendors) did not possess any banking documents, others possessed basic documents from LIC, required for licensing, issues with acquiring these documents were minimal, but the knowledge that they required these documents altogether for licensing had taken a while to reach the vendors, as it wasn’t enumerated very clearly to them. This lack of knowledge is dangerous as it can only push a sinking ship deeper. It is not simply for individual security, but also for national economy that financial education must be ensured and done so as a priority.

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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Why a Planned Market Failed to Take Off: A Photo Essay

By Avnika Nagar

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A market operates on the forces of demand and supply and these act as an invisible hand in the maintenance of an optimum equilibrium. However, there are factors other than the price which affect the sustenance of a market, the location being one of the most important. It is important that a market operates from a place which attracts both buyers and sellers naturally. In the light of the above argument, the ‘Munde Market’ was studied which was set up by The Pune Municipal Corporation on the Kothrud Road in order to relocate the street vendors near the Dahanukar Colony in Pune. However, the market was only built four to five years after the street vendors were driven away from Dahanukar Colony. 

After three visits, we realised that the market had only four active vendors — a tea vendor, a laundry shop, a fruit vendor and a betel vendor — who were the primary source of information.

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Why was a market which could accommodate 48 vendors left empty?

Unnatural Planted Market: The market is an unnatural planted market and is not a potential site for the operation of the business because of various reasons. The land was allotted to the vendors four to five years after the completion of the construction which made the vendors relocate themselves across different spots from where they could operate their business. “All the vendors who got selected to operate from this market had already relocated themselves to other places to earn their bread and butter,” said a vendor.

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The drainage below is visible across the floor of the market.

Built over a sewage drain: The market has been set up on a sewage drain which makes the inner part of the market smell and this pushes the consumers to consider other possible alternatives nearby. “The inner market smells a lot due  to the presence of the sewage beneath and the smell from the adjacent bathroom makes it worse,” said another vendor.

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The sewage besides the market makes sure that premises stink all round the day.  Photo: Guru Kamble                                                     
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The red pins show the number of vegetable and fruit street vendors found in close proximity to the market.

Competition with vendors on the street: Furthermore, the market has been set up in front of a traffic signal which makes it inconvenient for the consumers to park their cars while shopping. One of the factors which retards the efficient functioning of the market is that there are approximately 15 street vendors, right outside the complex on the street, within 100 metres of the market, out of which some are mobile vendors who increase the convenience of the residents in the area. “How will a vegetable shop work here, when outside after every two minutes you have shop selling vegetables and fruits,” said a vendor.

 

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Space available for each vendor is insufficient.

Lack of space: The market has been divided into grids and each grid measures 4/5 ft. After studying the space occupied by the vegetable and fruit vendors in Vitthalwadi market which primarily deals in fruits and vegetables, it was observed that the average space occupied by raw materials of the vendors was approximately 7 x 4 ft and 6 x 4 ft respectively, thus there would be space constraints for the vendors in the Munde market.

Built on a cremation ground: The place where the market existed was a cremation site before, which could create a psychological impact on the consumers. The market also had an alcohol shop adjacent to it which often witnessed cases of drunk people entering the market and misbehaving.

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Due to the above mentioned reasons, most of the market remains deserted till date.

 

Thus, we see that the piece of land which was used to relocate the street vendors was not planned efficiently. It never had the potential of operating successfully due to its disadvantaged location and the sellers who would inevitably run into the losses. An attempt to relocate them did not help them in any way but aggravated their miseries. First, they lost their business and customers in the former spot. Second, the land which they got was not beneficial for them because of both intrinsic and extrinsic factors and finally they had to relocate themselves which caused further financial stress. Today, the market is almost vacant and has not been subjected to any alternative use. Munde Market sets an example of how poor urban planning leads to the wastage of scarce physical and financial resources.

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

The Market within a Market: The Complex Web of Goods and Services Supporting Street Vending

By Prajna Beleyur

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Situated in the heart of the city, Mandai and Tulsibaug are two of Pune’s oldest markets. Mandai is divided into two vegetable and fruit market complexes: one is an older wooden octagonal market and the other, a newer tiled market. Tulsibaug is more organic in the way it has developed over the years. The Mandai complex has plots where vegetable and fruit vendors can conduct business, while Tulsibaug consists of three main roads with a wide variety of vendors who sell diverse goods and services. The municipal corporation has taken over a small part of Tulsibaug and has spatially segregated it but has not built any shops or stalls to facilitate vending. Mandai, on the other hand is regulated and maintained by a separate wing of the municipality.

Over the years, there have been many complex interactions between vendors and service providers of different kinds. The demand for these services and goods have evolved over time and created an interesting web of multiple economies, resulting in an interdependence among different actors.

The Plastic Bag Seller: While interviewing a ginger seller in the mandai complex, a lady with a big bag of plastics bags came over and asked if the seller needed any. At this point I realised that the vendors themselves depend on a whole parallel economy of helpers, sellers, and other actors to keep the market running. The plastic bag seller said said she has been selling plastic bags for over 15 years to vendors in the Mandai complex and outside, visiting the market twice a day. However, with the new Central government rules that bans plastic bags thinner than 50 microns, she’s at risk from being caught by the Municipal Corporation. If caught she will be fined close to Rs 1000 and the bags will be taken away from the vendors too. Fining the plastic bag seller will primarily affect her, but also affects the vendors who buy from her. Vendors have observed that customers don’t prefer to buy from those who do not have plastic bags to pack the bought produce. While the other option is to buy plastic bags thicker than 50 microns, the cost of such a polythene is also much higher. 

The Watchman: Another interesting discovery was of the private watchmen that a few vendors on the Shanipar Road hire to safeguard their goods in the night. This system has apparently been in place since annas were a significant currency. According to the vendor we spoke to, the watchman is paid a share of the vendor’s monthly income, therefore there is no fixed salary that has to be gathered. Each vendor contributes Rs.50-100 depending on their savings. If a vendor has not had good sales they may not even contribute to the salary.  It seemed to one that the service offered was on fluid terms, subjective to the vendors’ monthly sales.

The Chaiwallah: The chaiwala was another frequent presence in the markets. I observed that in the evening many chaiwalas brought with them a kettle full of chai (tea) and a dozen ceramic mugs. They served the tea in the mug and gave it to the vendor and collected it after they were done. There was no cash transaction at that point of time. When the vendors were asked about this, they said that they paid once every two/four days. The chaiwallah, they said, had a tapri (stall) in the adjacent road but chose to deliver the chai by sending someone with a kettle. The tapri owners have created this system of delivery knowing that the vendors cannot come to the stall while their goods are left unguarded. The target customers in the market are obviously the vendors themselves, as their numbers do not change drastically during the day or periods in the year. The delivery system also incentivises their consumption, as they do not have to put any extra effort to get the tea.

The Cleaners: The jewelery lane was one of the lanes in Tulsibaug that was explored. While interviewing one of the shop owners, he said that they are required to keep the road clean by the urban local government. The municipal corporation expects that all the shop owners pack up all their belongings at the end of the day and store it elsewhere. This leaves the road empty for the safai karmacharis to pick up waste from the area in the morning. However, the karmacharis only pick up the deposited waste, they do not clean the entire street. Upon asking further, he told us that the whole lane of vendors have employed two ladies to clean up the entire street after everyone has packed up. They pay her every month according to their individual income, which is usually about 100/person/month.

This system of paying another service provider a salary based on one’s income exhibits the interdependence that I hoped to illustrate through this piece. The market here does not stop between the vendor and the customer but goes forwards and backwards from that transaction. One’s savings has an effect on the fresh goods one can buy the next day and ancillary services one can avail. One would further expect that a service provider seeks a steady salary but for unexplored reasons this does not necessarily hold good in the above contexts. At the cost of sounding rather dramatic, it does seem that there is a market within a market!

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

Abandoning Slots for the Street: Lessons from the deserted Mahatma Phule Mandai

By Shivam Shourya

The Street Vendors Act (2014) intends to provide vending zones to street hawkers. The hawkers are supposed to be issued licenses for designated places where they can freely run their businesses. The proponents of the Act believe this will clear off the roads for smooth vehicle mobility and also protect the hawkers from multiple vulnerabilities. In short, assigning a place away from streets seems to be the solution for several issues like traffic congestion, informality of markets and harassment of hawkers by local authorities. But will this be effective? In order to find answers to these questions, we need to assess the successes and failures of similar efforts in the past of allocating a dedicated place for vendors. The Mahatma Phule Mandai of Pune was the outcome of such an effort. Our study of Mandai tells us that mere allotment of a vending zone does not serve the purpose and there are many factors which must be considered for the success of such a vending zone.

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Source: Vaishali Gadgil/puneheritage.blogspot.in

Established in 1886, the centrally located Mandai is one of the oldest markets of Pune, built under the aegis of the then Governor of Bombay Presidency, Lord Reay. The eight wings of this mammoth building have in total 536 stalls meant for vending. Also, the Indo-gothic architecture of this Grade 1 heritage stone structure serves as a major tourist attraction.  It is known as Mahatma Phule Mandai, in the honour of Jyotiba Phule, the well known social reformer of pre-independence times. For all the advantages and historical significance Mandai holds, the market now bears a deserted look. Most of the stalls remain vacant. Much area of the wings are now exclusively used to accommodate stacks of potatoes, onions etc. 

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Most of the stalls remain vacant. Much area of the wings are now exclusively used to accommodate stacks of potatoes, onions etc. 
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Once vibrant and busy, today the market sees very few vendors and has a deserted look.

While the Mandai remains deserted, a completely different picture can be seen on the adjacent Amrale Road. The footfall increases with the sunset and in no time, the road becomes difficult to navigate through, both for pedestrians and vehicles. Large number of sellers have relinquished the comfort of trading at dedicated plots of Mahatma Phule Mandai and grabbed a spot on the nearby street. Without the stable slots, they use makeshift infrastructure such as carts, plastic mats, rubber tyres and wooden baskets. The question that arises is: What has pulled the sellers away from the stalls of this historical market to the streets? Why do they choose to face scorching sun and fierce rain when they already have a better place to run their business?

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While the Mandai remains deserted, a completely different picture can be seen on the adjacent Amrale Road. Large number of sellers have relinquished the comfort of trading at dedicated plots of Mahatma Phule Mandai and grabbed a spot on the nearby street.

After several interviews with sellers inside and outside the Mandai, things started getting clearer. The few sellers who have worked in the inside wings of Mandai and Phule market for the last four to five decades spoke about how things have changed over the years. Every stall was occupied by a vendor with permissions to trade. Every seller had to have proper documents to give legal backing to his/her exclusive rights over stalls. Of course, they had to pay monthly rent also to PMC. Customers used to come inside Mandai in large numbers. In other words, it was all very formalised, something which the Street Vendors Act (2014) envisages. The adjacent road was used only for traffic movement, but in-migration into the city from various districts of Maharashtra started taking its toll.

“I can’t (work on the road). I am too old now. I am fine sitting here and patiently waiting for customers. But I miss those good old days. There were so many people around here. It was fun. But now it is scary. I feel lonely.” — A 70-year-old coconut seller. 

The new vendors and migrants who had opted to take up this business were left with no stalls/plots in Mandai so that they could not be accommodated. The wings were already saturated. Moreover, no fresh surveys and registrations were conducted so that the new vendors could be issued any certificate or license to sell at any designated place. With no choice left, these new vendors started using the road as their point of sale. Each of them grabbed a spot as per convenience and gradually attained permanence there. From the customer’s perspective, this was convenient. They were no more required to look for parking, get off their vehicles and roam around the stalls. They could come, buy and depart in a jiffy now. The Amrale road was slowly but steadily growing into a ‘natural market’.

The burgeoning number of hawkers sitting on the roadside were taking away the loyal customers from vendors sitting inside the wings. They were losing visibility. Left with no incentives, the vendors quit their allotted plots and started moving towards roads. Cut-throat competition began to grab a lucrative spot. Only few of the vendors could survive the race. Those who were/are old, or sellers with disabilities could not cope with the vulnerabilities of sitting on the road, and continued with their trade inside Mandai, half-heartedly. A 70-year-old woman engaged in selling coconuts inside the old building of Mandai, said, “I can’t (work on the road). I am too old now. I am fine sitting here and patiently waiting for customers. But I miss those good old days. There were so many people around here. It was fun. But now it is scary. I feel lonely.” Such vendors depend only on those customers who have familial relations with them and purchase goods from them solely because of outside relationships and acquaintance.

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The Amrale Road has now developed as a ‘natural market’.

The political affiliations and connections also mattered. Vendors who had the backing of political parties and local leaders managed to get place on street, while they also retained their stalls inside Mandai. They continue paying the nominal rent of Rs 60 per month. For instance, a 70-year-old garlic seller remarks, “I know them. They know me, Why would they evict me?! My mother used this road for business. Now me. They just request me to pull back the goods if they happen to encroach on the carriageway. They also know about our Ganpati union. They attend our functions and events. So I don’t have any problem sitting on the street.”

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On Amrale Road, without stable slots, the vendors use makeshift infrastructure such as carts, plastic mats, rubber tyres to set up stalls. 

And then there are few vendors who neither have political affiliations nor proper documents that authorize their activity on the street. Needless to say, they are the most vulnerable. One of them is a 40-year-old native of Latur, who sells fruits of various kinds on a handcart. He claims, “I have been evicted many a times. Two months back, I was evicted. It is now a part of my livelihood. They do not just confiscate my cart but also throw away the fruits. They also charge a fine of Rs 500.”

“It is not the location of hawking but the quality of goods and services produced that pulls customers. So the pretext given by vendors to take refuge of roads is completely baseless and ridiculous.” — Member of Pune Town Vending Committee

What do these stories tell us? Informality can promote a conducive environment for hawkers and customers to trade conveniently that, to some extent, the formal setup does not allow. Mahatma Phule Mandai buildings, both new and old, stand testimony to the historic triumph of informality over efforts to regulate markets. Furthermore, unless we formulate a plan which can deal with rehabilitating new vendors in sync with the already existing vending practices, there will not going to be any successful vending zone. But it seems the authorities have not yet got the message. One of the members of Pune Town Vending Committee, claimed, “It is not the location of hawking but the quality of goods and services produced that pulls customers. So the pretext given by vendors to take refuge of roads is completely baseless and ridiculous”.

The Street Vendors Act 2014 puts a cap of 2.5 percent of the city population to be the total number of registered vendors. Such a ceiling limits not just the market size but also gives space for the blooming of informality. Even when all the vendors constituting the 2.5 percent would get registered and relocated to different vending zones, the Act won’t recognise the new vendors, their challenges and their contribution in city economy. Further, they will again distort the market equilibrium, defeating the entire purpose of the Act. The lesson from Mandai should be studied in depth so that several proposed vending zones do not meet the same fate.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Everyday Life and Livelihood Struggles of Lakshmi Ghodse

By Pawan Kumar

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Lakshmi Ghodse (right) with her small stall, sitting on the cycle track.

For over 20 years, Vitthalwadi Hingne Market on Sinhagad Road, Pune, has been thriving despite the fact that it has been declared a ‘no hawking zone’ by the government. The location is extremely lucrative for vendors as it connects the commercial centre of the city to several peripheral residential localities and people stop by the market to buy goods on their way home. In 2005, the Sinhagad Road was broadened and the footpath was redeveloped to include a pedestrian track and an adjacent cycle track. However, this did not stop the market from functioning. After the redevelopment, the market has been divided into two parts. The vendors sit on the pedestrian track while buyers use the cycle track to walk, bargain, and shop. The only exception is Lakshmi Ghodse, who sells her goods on the cycle track.

Lakshmi Ghodse is a 70-year-old widow who has been selling fruits and vegetables in this market for over 15 years. Though sitting on the cycle track is illegal, she says her stall is relatively small and needs to be away from the large shops and easily visible to her customers (See picture above). I  decided to focus on her story because I witnessed her struggles first hand during fieldwork.  Here’s an excerpt of our conversation:

Why do you do this job at this age?

My husband and I both sold goods in this market for 15 years, but now I am alone. My husband died in an accident on Sinhagad Road when he was carrying goods from Golltigri market yard to this market. After his death, we have no other earning options in my family. Now I have to sell goods (fruits and vegetables) alone in this market. I stay with my three nieces and they are entirely dependent on me. I am physically weak and I cannot carry these goods from one place to another.

What problems do you face while selling your products?

Selling products in this market is not a problem. The sale is good and I can earn Rs 100-150 per day. However, it is very difficult for me to sit from morning till night (around 9.00 am to 8.00 pm) since I am physically weak. I also have to sit on the cycle track because of my small stall compared to the bigger stalls set up on the pedestrian track. Earlier I used to sit on the pedestrian track, but my earning reduced to Rs50-100 per day. My biggest problem is eviction. Every time the encroachment department comes, I am the first one to be evicted. On an average, I have to pay Rs500 a week in fines and bribes. I earn Rs5000-6000 per month but give a fine of Rs2000-2500 per month. Sometimes the encroachment department takes all my stuff and when I go to release my goods, 75% of my goods are missing! When I try to negotiate with the police, they say, ‘We are following government rules, you can’t sit on the cycle track, people can’t walk, you are an obstacle!’ Once I tried to request them to not take my goods, but they picked up my weighing machine and hit me with it! I was bleeding. It was a very bad day for me, no one was here to help.

Do you have a registration certificate? What category category (A, B C..) certificate do you have?

I have no idea about any certificate. Some vendors told me to make a certificate but I don’t know how to fill the registration form.  

After half-an-hour we saw the encroachment department’s vehicles pass by the market. All the vendors were suddenly alert, some started mumbling ‘ye ander kero, wo ander kero’ (‘put this inside, put that inside’). But the vendors soon realised that they were just stopping by the market to pick up a drink of coconut water. In fact, they were on their way to evict another market.

In the meanwhile, Lakshmi Ghodse had already rushed to pick up all her goods and shift to a secure, hidden spot. As the officers left, she again struggled to place her goods on the cycle track. “Where will I go, I have to sit here so that I can earn money and help my family,” she cried, helplessly.

The scene on the footpath when the encroachment department’s truck stopped near the cycle track.

The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act 2014 talks about protection of rights of streets vendors and their livelihood. Under this act, Article 3.3 mentions that the person who is above the age of 65 years should have “A” certificate. People with ‘A’ certificate are less likely to be evicted.  Lakshmi Ghodse is above 65 and also physically weak. Why is she evicted every time? Why does she not have a certificate? I strongly believe that we need a system that can educate vendors about the provisions of the Act and assist them with registrations and certifications so they do not become victims of such state evictions.

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

Natural v/s Planned Markets: What Works Best for Vendors?

By Gitanjali Sharma

We often hear phrases such as “this market area is bubbling up” or “there is lot of hustle-bustle in the market”. These phrases don’t just imply that a place is crowded but also describes the atmosphere of a market that is charged, busy, colourful and vibrant. The sellers do everything they can to pull crowds towards their carts and stalls. They employ several spatial strategies too: Where an entire market is set up or which spot a vendor decides to occupy is carefully planned and negotiated with other stakeholders.  

The recent Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 calls such markets that have grown organically over the years, ‘natural markets’. In the Act, a ‘natural market’ is defined as “a market where sellers and buyers have traditionally congregated for the sale and purchase of products or services and has been determined as such by the local authority on the recommendations of the Town Vending Committee.” While identifying ‘natural markets’ and safeguarding them is a step in the right direction, the problem can arise when it is left to the Town Vending Committee to decide what qualifies as a ‘natural’ and what does not.

During the Summer Institute*, we engaged with street vendors closely, and realised that the location of a ‘natural’ market depended on one central question: Where will the buyer come?

Vitthalwadi Hingne Market/ Natural Market: We visited the Vitthalwadi Hingne Market, located on Sinhagad road. This 20-year-old market has not been formalised or legally recognised by the state yet, but it highlights what makes a site a viable marketplace. The market consists only of street vendors. There are about 60 vendors, all of them have a fixed spot. Though no formal allotment was decided by the state, there is an informal understanding among the vendors about who can sell where. The vendors also make room for new sellers under the condition that their trade will not interfere with others.

The location of the Vitthalwadi Hingne Market is key to its success. The Sinhagad road connects the inner city of Pune — which has most offices and commercial centres — to residential localities on the peripheries. Commuters returning back from their offices often stop here to buy goods. The market is also right on the footpath, which allows the buyers to halt in front of the vendor, rather than parking the vehicle and then walking into a market area. Ironically, despite all the advantages the vendors listed, and two decades of successful sales, this place is declared a non-hawking zone. This acts as a problem for the vendors, since they are vulnerable to eviction with increasing regularity. The case pushes us to rethink the provisions of the Street Vendors Act, which restricts the mushrooming of markets rather than encouraging them.

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Since the market is on a footpath, the buyers can easily stop by to pick up goods.
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Vitthalwadi Hingne Market is the busiest during evenings, when people returning home from work visit to buy their daily groceries. Since the market is on a footpath, the buyers can easily stop by to pick up goods.

Munde Market/ Planned Market: Our other field site, Munde Market, provided us with a completely contradictory picture. Constructed by Pune Municipal Corporation, the market is a planned site, and is divided into 48 grids for vendors to occupy. However, it is currently occupied by just four vendors. Several characteristics worked against this market site — this included the past history of the land on which the market is situated, the placing of amenities around it (a traffic signal is located right in front of the market), and the construction of the market over a flowing sewage system. The market was artificially planted and purposefully created by the government with the intent of formalising the street vendors. However, not only did the market have poor spatial dynamics but also didn’t cater to vendors need of space. Every vendor was allocated a slot of 4 x 5 feet, which is insufficient, especially since the requirement of spaces varies from product to product and trade to trade.

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Though the market was planned as ‘hawking zone’ by the municipal corporation, it remains largely abandoned till date.

A ‘mushrooming market’ or a ‘sprouting market’ that grows organically tells us a lot about the socio-spatial dynamics of a place, that the vendors creatively use to their advantage. We need provisions and actions to be taken for the encouragement of natural markets as they provide immense number of chances of sales to the vendors, and healthy livelihood opportunities.

* 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. The posts that follow will describe the above markets in greater detail. Watch this space for more.

To see institute reports from previous batches visit our website: http://urk.tiss.edu/winter-institute.html

 

Contested Streets: Asserting the Right to Livelihood on the Streets of Pune

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A street vendor sells fish at the Paud Phata Market, Pune. Photograph by Martin Pheiga

Streets in Indian cities are the site of manifold urban activities and therefore the arena for embittered fights and endless negotiations over its use and appropriation. Streets are not only used for the circulation of goods and vehicles, but are also used to set up places of worship, of livelihood, of habitation, of social and religious celebrations and to stage political protests. It is at the heart of urban public life. With the rise of modern town planning and the need to assign and fix specific uses to particular spaces, the predominant use of streets has been reduced to the  unobstructed and efficient circulation of goods and vehicles, while pedestrian movement has been limited to the footpath/sidewalk/pavement. This has unfortunately pitched the mobile pedestrian in direct opposition to the street vendor who occupies a static space on the pavement and yet serves the needs of pedestrians, commuters, drivers, and other users of the street. With the increase of vehicular traffic, road congestion, and the rise of the urban middle class in our cities, hawkers have become increasingly vilified, and hawking is considered a nuisance and an illegal encroachment on the public’s right of way. Multiple and brutal eviction drives against hawkers across Indian cities, the most notable being Operation Sunshine in Kolkata in 1996, have thus rendered the livelihoods of street vendors extremely precarious, subject to multiple and violent disruptions, and daily exploitations by police, politicians, vehicle owners, residential welfare associations and intermediaries.

Following a protracted struggle, resistance movements and national mobilisation of hawkers by hawkers and activists for almost two decades, the Government of India brought out a progressive piece of legislation – the The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014, that has not frame street vendors as offenders but instead promises legal recognition of hawkers and protection from forced evictions and police harassment. The Act cites key constitutional provisions in support of hawkers and street vending and establishes guidelines for state governments so that registered street vendors can continue to earn their livelihood and ensure that pavements have enough space left for pedestrians and other street uses along with hawking. It also mandates the creation of hawking and no-hawking zones in the city. Most importantly, the Act makes it explicit that no street vendor can be evicted until the registrations and surveys are completed by the relevant authorities. The Act necessitates the formation of Town Vending Committees, a participative decision making body, 40 per cent of which comprises hawkers associations along with the urban local body, market associations, traffic police and civil society organisations. The judgement has far reaching implications. It gives millions of hawkers a ray of hope that their rights will be safeguarded.

WHAT DOES THE STREET VENDING ACT PROVIDE FOR?

  • To protect vendors against police harassment, Section 29 of the Act assures vendors that the vendors cannot be evicted and can carry on their work without the fear of the authorities or any other law.
  • The Act provides for constitution of a Town Vending Authority for implementing the provisions, conducting surveys of all vendors in locality, issuing certificates and ID cards for all vendors identified in the survey.
  • All identified street vendors will be accommodated in vending zones.

The state of implementation of the Act has been abysmally poor across the nation. Each state and urban local body is supposed to frame its own schemes, rules and by-laws in order to implement the Act on the ground, keeping in mind the local specificities of street design and livelihood practices. However, very few states and local bodies have been able to implement this and have faced enormous resistance from various stakeholders. Pune, which has approximately 20,000 hawkers, is one of the first cities where a Town Vending Committee has been formed to regulate street vending, register hawkers, provide for grievance redressal mechanisms, and ensure that contestations over streets are negotiated in an inclusive manner. Out of many active civil society organisations, Parisar and the Centre for Environment and Education, have been deeply involved in the issues of hawkers and the regulation of their livelihood practices in the city of Pune. Moreover, the active engagement of citizens groups have also ensured that street vending is part and parcel of the ongoing redesign of streets to incorporate walkers and cyclists as part of the Smart City projects.

The students of Masters in Urban Policy and Governance, at TISS (Mumbai) conducted an in-depth study of the challenges faced by street vendors in Pune city guided by the faculty and members of Parisar and CEE. The research was undertaken as a part of the ‘Summer Institute’, a field-based course that provides students an intense experience in understanding contemporary policy formulations, impacts of policies, and ongoing urban transformations while working in interdisciplinary teams in collaboration with local civil society organisations. Over two weeks, from March 27 to April 7, 2017, the students studied the life and livelihood practices of hawkers, various vulnerabilities to which the street vendors are subjected and, the changes brought, if any, by Street Vendors (Protection of livelihood and regulation) Act, 2014. The study was spread across 10 markets in Pune city, where each market represented a specific socio-spatial feature. For e.g., Juna Bazaar, is one of Pune’s centrally located, oldest markets and a heritage precinct, whereas the market under Warje flyover is relatively new, lies on the periphery of the city and is vulnerable to multiple evictions.

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The focus of this Summer Institute was on urban issues such as informality and livelihoods in a Pune. It aimed to understand the hawkers and vendors’ livelihood conditions and how they were contingent on specific locations and political economic conditions, their backward and forward linkages to the city’s economy, the evolution of their livelihood practices and their governance. The students also identified the various stakeholders involved, through participatory research, in order to identify emerging conflicts over streets and the implications it could have on the future of urban vending. The research objectives were as follows:

RESEARCH OBJECTIVES

  • To gain an understanding of the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 and corresponding Maharashtra Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Rules, 2015.
  • To study the diversity of street vendors through market structures and identify their socio-spatial vulnerabilities.
  • To take stock of various stakeholders and the distribution of powers between them and how it influences the implementation of the act and schemes.
  • To study the challenges and extent of implementation of the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 in the city of Pune.

The issue of street vending raises several pressing questions about how we imagine cities, who can occupy it, and who can rightfully call it their own. The students’ work tried to conceive the rights to the street and livelihood as a democratic and socio-political right which is increasingly under threat despite the recent Street Vending Act. At the end of the two week exercise, the students along with Parisar and CEE carried out a brainstorming exercise that led to the drafting of a memo that was presented to the Pune Municipal Corporation which contained specific observations and suggestions to facilitate the implementation of the Act in Pune. In the following month, we will be posting some of their research in the form of blogs, photo essays, narratives, life stories, analytical pieces and interviews that describe in great detail the everyday lives of street vendors and local street markets.

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. The rationale behind this intense field experience is that of enabling students to analyze and understand policy issues, as well as the possibilities of strategic response to them, as they are studied in the field.  To see reports from previous batches visit our website: http://urk.tiss.edu/winter-institute.html