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

 

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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

 

 

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

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