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Street Vendors and the Need to Develop New Vending Zones

Due to space limitation in Nupi Keithel at Khwairamband in Imphal, there is a need to develop vending zones in the suburbs and other parts of Imphal city to decongest the main market area.

ByRK Nimai

Updated 25 Oct 2022, 6:28 pm

Ima Keithel, Khwairamband, Imphal, Manipur (PHOTO: IFP)
Ima Keithel, Khwairamband, Imphal, Manipur (PHOTO: IFP)

 

The issue of street vendors is not of recent origin as the matter was brought to the notice of the law courts since the 1980s starting with cases like Bombay Hawkers Union vs Bombay Municipal Corporation (1985), Sodan Singh vs Delhi Municipal Corporation (1989), Gainda Ram vs Municipal Corporation of Delhi (2010), Maharashtra Ekta Hawkers Union and another vs Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (2002), etc.

In the last referred case its orders dated September 9, 2013, the Supreme Court directed “All the existing street vendors/hawkers operating across the country be allowed to operate till the exercise of registration and creation of vending/hawking zones is completed in terms of the 2009 policy. Once that exercise is completed, they will be entitled to operate only in accordance with the orders/directions of the concerned town vending committee”.

Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014

Consequent to the directions in Sodan Singh’s case, the Union Government formulated the National Policy on Urban Street Vendors, 2009 and ultimately the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 was enacted.

The national policy provides for three zonal categories that are - Restriction free vending zones, restricted vending zones and no-vending zones besides provisions of services and collection of monthly registration fee.

Under the Act, there will be a Town Vending Committee that has to conduct surveys for all vendors under its jurisdiction every five years and a certificate issued.

All street vendors above the age of 18 are eligible for this certificate and transfer of certificate is not permitted.

No vendor is allowed his business in the no-vending zone. All street vendors will be accommodated in the vending zones and violation of any of the conditions will entail cancellation of his license.

The Act also prescribes that the number of street vendors accommodated in each vending zone would be 2.5 per cent of the population of the ward, zone, town or city. Any higher application will be decided by draw of lots.

Street Vendors in Imphal, Manipur

The urban population of Imphal is estimated at about 4.19 lakh. So the number of street vendors eligible for license will be around 10,000, which need not be provided space only in Khwairamband area but in the satellite markets and other areas within the city limits.

Manipur is to follow the policy and the Act. However, unfortunately, from the statements of the Municipal Administration Housing and Urban Development (MAHUD) minister, there seems to be corruption in the registration of street vendors in Imphal city.

Against a total of about 6,000 street vendors identified earlier, on verification, it was found that there are only about 1,400. Perhaps, the 6,000 figure was arrived at by taking into account the population and the total seats available in the various markets.  Adding arbitrarily non-existent street vendors, calls for action against those who had intentionally inflated the figure.

The position of the law is clear, street vendors must be recognised and proper vending zones earmarked, there should be registration of the street vendors, so on and so forth. Besides, the inconvenience to the commuters also needs to be considered and the street should in no case be so crowded to make passage difficult. Those who have come out in the streets have been forced to do so to earn a livelihood and nobody wants to spend their time in the hot sunshine and rain with limited protection. They ought to be treated with a certain level of dignity and not chased out with sticks like cattle.

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Lack of governance post pandemic

After the COVID-19 pandemic in the state, the street vendors selling various items, including vegetables, have increased, especially in areas outside the Khwairamband area in Imphal.

The tragedy is that none of the street vendors were found registered and even some local clubs collect money from them from selling their wares. This is unfortunate and shows lack of governance; acts which should have been done by the government and its agencies have been taken over by individuals or groups of individuals for their own benefit.

As regard to the markets in Khwairamband areas, there is a need to verify whether the licence holders are actually conducting their business or the plot or space is leased out to others at a premium.

Those who lease out ought to have their licence summarily cancelled and the space allotted to others, a list of which should be prepared especially from the verified registered street vendors.

The MAHUD minister is correct when he says that it is not patta which is given, and the tendency to pass on the licences from mother to daughter must be done away with, especially when the daughters are not involved in retail business. They should apply for a new licence if they want to do business in the earmarked region and should not as a matter of right inherit the vending space allotted to their mothers.

The market for street vendors needs to be allotted to only genuine street vendors and not to any who has the connection to enter their name in the register. No government will be able to provide space for hawking to all those who want to do so and hence there is a need to regulate as per the law.

Should someone from outside the metropolitan area, another district or state be allowed to vend their wares within Imphal City? Should the vending zones be opened to only those from the district or the city? These issues need to be considered and addressed.

Imphal city cannot be made into a vending city for every citizen of the country.

With street vendors taking up space and vehicle parking on the side of the roads, most of the streets in the city, which are in most of the cases, poorly maintained are difficult to negotiate.

Monitoring must be on a continuous and regular basis not like the restriction on vehicle parking beyond the parking zone, which is now hardly followed after a few days of action. The matter must be discussed with the stakeholders first and frame a guideline which is workable and enforceable.

A guideline issued, but amending it the next day after a representation must be avoided, as it indicates lack of application of mind and make the people believe that orders are issued to be violated or flouted.

Once an order is issued after detailed deliberation, it must be ensured that it is followed strictly and violators penalised.

The upper floor of the three Nupi Keithel (women only markets) need to be opened to street vendors though it was earlier agreed that it will not be given to anybody; due to changed circumstances.

It is sheer wastage of floor space which was constructed with huge investment of public money.

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The dog in a manger policy adopted by the vendors of these establishments is no longer justified and if the first floor is made available to the street vendors the crowding by the street vendors of the footpath along the three keithel (markets) can be avoided, and the three keithel will look much better besides redressing the grouse of the vendors of the three markets that the street vendors are garnering all the business.

While on the Nupi keithel, the women vendors, municipal authorities and the police must ensure that only women hawk their ware in and around the three Nupi keithel. The uniqueness of Nupi keithel is that it is an all-women market.

One is a bit surprised that the women vendors are not proactive in opposing male vendors, especially from outside the state, who may not be aware of the sanctity of the keithel, hawking their wares by the three keithel and even on the stairs. This makes one wonder the logic why they are so adverse to street vendors and not to the male hawkers. Is it due to the fact that the wares they hawk are dissimilar to those hawked by them?

With the street hawkers in almost every part of the city, including the suburbs after the COVID pandemic, the number of shoppers going to Khwairamband market for vegetables etc has gone down, though crowds still throng these markets due to increased population.

Due to space limitation, it is impossible to provide space to all those who want it and there has to be a limit. This points to the fact that there is a need to develop vending zones in the suburbs and other parts of the city to decongest the main market area.

For retail business, many establishments have gone outside the Khwairamband market areas with new outlets opened in areas such as Khoyathong, Sega Lambi, New Checkon, Chingmeirong, etc. It is a pointer for the need to establish hawking zones in the periphery of the city also as private initiatives react faster to changing circumstances than the government. If Lamlong market, Kongba market, Tera market, Kwakeithel market, etc are developed, it will decongest the main market area and the craze for a plot or space in it may be reduced.

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First published:

Tags:

Ima KeithelManipurImphalKhwairambandstreet vendorsstreet vendingNupi keithel

RK Nimai

RK Nimai

The author is a former bureaucrat, Imphal, Manipur

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