Roadside vendors in Manipur joined the Roadside Vendors Welfare Association and the National Hawkers Federation in the celebration of RVWA 23rd foundation day in Imphal on Tuesday. But the daily street vendors and hawkers in the state are a "suppressed" lot. And the celebration was marked with the demand for the implementation of the Street Vendors Act in the state.
“Street vendors play an important role in the state economy but their rights are suppressed and violated,” National Hawkers Federation general secretary Saktiman Gosh said, pointing out that the Street Vendors Act was enacted in 2014 to protect the urban street vendors and to regulate street vending activities but till today the government is yet to implement the Act in the state.
In order to protect the rights of the street vendors, there is a need to implement the Street Vendors Act, he said. He also pointed out the need for the establishment of a town vending committee and registration of street vendors in the committee.
It may be recalled that in February 2020, the RVWA took out a demonstration, with the demand for the provision of vending space, the formation of town vending committee and implementation of Street Vendors Act, 2014. The All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Manipur State Committee had then condemned the prohibition of RVWA from convening a meeting by deploying a large number of Manipur police personnel in Imphal.
However, many of the roadside vendors who attended the celebration function were not even aware of the existence of the Street Vendors Act that was set up to protect them.
Also, under the scheme initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a street vendor can avail a loan of up to Rs 10,000. However, many of the street vendors are unaware of the financial scheme and are yet to benefit from it. In view of it, Gosh urged the vendors to avail the opportunity of this Rs 10,000 loan provided to each street vendors.
The unawareness or ignorance of the roadside vendors or hawkers about the scheme, perhaps, is due to lack of proper dissemination of information.
Majority of the vendor population are illiterate and there is an urgent need for the creation of awareness among the thousands of vendors who depend on their meagre earnings to sustain themselves and their families or dependents.
One of the vegetable vendors told the Imphal Free Press that though some of them learned about the scheme, availing it involves a process which is not easy for them.
Highlighting the sufferings of the vendors, Gosh said the National Hawker Association will continue to support the street vendors of the state.
Roadside Vendors Welfare Association president Kshetri Tama said that Chief Minister Biren Singh had assured vending space to street vendors at the western side of the Temporary Ima Market in Imphal West which has been closed since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic,
The vendors of the temporary market, which is also known as the fourth Ima market, have been demanding the renovation of the temporary market shed before the reopening of the main Ima markets.
The three Khwairamband Ima markets (Only women markets) situated in the heart of the capital Imphal have been closed since the beginning of the lockdown in the state. As several others markets, shops and malls are now opened, the women vendors have been demanding the government to reopen the markets and allow them to resume the operation of their business as usual by strictly following COVID Standard Operating Procedure.
Pointing out that the street vendors have been suffering since the starting of the COVID-19 pandemic due to the ban on vending in Imphal city areas, Tama appealed to the government to start allowing vending in the Imphal city by imposing appropriate SOP.
In the interest of all the street vendors, Tama further appealed to the government to provide the unused first floors of Ima markets to the street vendors.
The 23rd foundation day celebration of the Roadside Vendors Welfare Association (RVWA), which is affiliated to the All India Trade Union Congress, was held in association with the National Hawkers Federation on Tuesday in Imphal.