According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, there are more than 10 million street vendors in India. Rural poverty continues to push people from rural to urban or semi-urban areas. Since migrants usually lack skills and education, they are not chosen for mainstream jobs and many opt for street vending to survive amidst urban habitats. As per the 38th section of Central Street Vendors Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending Act 2014, a new scheme has been implemented to protect the livelihood of the hawkers and ensure protection to their business. However, the Police and municipal authorities evict them without providing official notice.
Rasheed, a vegetable seller, said, "I have been selling vegetables here since 2017. I took loans from private banks to purchase merchandise and to set up a moving cart as those are the easiest permits to obtain. Some days before, two officials came and warned me not to sell things on roadsides. I showed my identity card but they took away my weighing machine and ordered me to pay Rs 200 fine for its return."
"The inhabitants of this area had given a police complaint to stop street vending. They see us as a public nuisance. We are doing this job because we don't have any alternative career. We provide them fresh edibles at lower than the market price and still, they bargain with us in a very bad manner," said Shamsudheen with a sigh.
Abdulrazak, a sixty year old vendor, said, "I work for my owner Kabeer as a daily wager. Municipal authorities visit us twice a week to warn of the elimination of street vending completely from roads. There are many retail shops here but as most of the pedestrians purchase things from us, it is a threat to their business. So, retailers have an indirect approach and intervention in this sudden action of evicting us from our duty."
A fruit vendor, Kasim, stated, "No authority is thinking about our welfare and better livelihood. Before elections, candidates contact us seeking votes enquiring about our wards and political priorities but not about our living conditions and socio-economic stability. We are earning only one-third of the profit amount of small shops. Most of the money is spent on purchasing commodities. To an extent, we are also an asset to entrepreneurship. We sell things on roadsides because we choose it as our ultimate profession."
The income level of most of the vendors has not increased over the years. It has even suffered severely under the violence of officials across the state. Street vendors are heavily dependent on money lenders or private banks to which they pay high-interest rates and remain in debt. The intervention of the government is keenly awaited to bring solution to their plight.