In Bengaluru, it's pedestrians vs. street vendors

Aditi Hastak, Bangalore Community Manager
Bangalore, 1 July 2016

Bengaluru is home to approximately 1.5 lakh-2 lakh street vendors. Street vendors belong to different socio-economic background and, in the recent years, many of them are migrants – not only from other states of India but also from smaller towns of Karnataka.

Studies have found that vendors are an integral part of urban economies. They provide easy access to goods and services; some also have suggested that these vendors act as “eyes on the street,” invoking a feeling of safety. However, our cities fail to acknowledge the positives arriving out of the vendors’ livelihood, and the vendors, in turn, are always faced with harassment at the hands of the police and other regulatory bodies. A recent example is in Rajajinagar, III block, wherein the street vendors were evicted from the footpath after the High Court directive stated, “Footpaths are meant for the movement of pedestrians. They must be clean and free.”

The Supreme Court of India passed a directive and, in 2004, a National Policy on Urban Street Vendors was passed and further revised it in 2009 with a strong recommendation for legislation. Thus followed the landmark Street Vendors (protection of livelihood and regulation of street vending) Act, 2014. In Bengaluru, the municipality, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike (BBMP), is the nodal authority for implementation. The BBMP is supposed to create Town Vending Committees (TVC), and 40% of the members should be street vendors. The TVC is then given the responsibility of surveying the street vendors of the city and creating vending zones. The creation of rules by BBMP itself has taken more than two years. The rules just recently came out in May 2016. Currently, the draft is being reviewed and the feedback process is ongoing.

While the framing of rules is happening, some positive initiatives have come forward. In Sanjay Nagar- a collaborative effort of residents, Citizens for Sustainability (CIFoS) and Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) to create a street design inclusive of the street vendors is underway. The survey of the street vendors to map them is ongoing and the effort intends to develop a street where vendors are not sidetracked but are an important part of the eco-system.

Another issue street vendors face is the lack of support from civil society. The Alternative Law Forum, based out of Bengaluru, helps in the legal advocacy of street vendors’ rights, and is involved in framing the rules and giving feedback on the policies. One issue the organization found is the use of the words “protection” and “regulation” in the same breath. Regulation implies the formalization of this informal sector by licensing and registration without acknowledging the difficulties in addressing the floating population of the vendors. Under the aegis of the Bruhat Bengaluru Beedhi Vyaapaari Sanghatanegala Okkoota (Federation of Street Vendor Unions of Bangalore), multiple vendor unions have formed across the city to protect their livelihood and their rights. Through supporting organizations, the vendors are made aware of their rights, giving them increased power to fight the authorities. For now, they are waiting to see the final outcome of the TVC’s draft and how these rules will impact them in the long run.

Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images Reportage

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