GMC fails to develop vending zones, 30,000 vendors swarming city streets
GUWAHATI: With thousands of street vendors swarming the city, official vending zones have become a necessity even as the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) has failed to take a step in this direction despite being armed with the Street Vendors Act since the last five years.
The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood & Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 mandates a survey of the street vendors in all the cities, registration of such vendors and identification of locations to provide fixed vending zones to the vendors.
After the Act was passed, a survey was completed in April 2015 to identify the vendors and as per the results there were 7,183 street vendors in the city. At that point in time, there were 497 food vendors, 727 cloth vendors, 661 fruit vendors, 2,044 vegetable vendors, 194 fish vendors, 82 meat vendors, 1,163 paan/tamul vendors, 183 chana/puchka/bhel puri vendors and 1,631 others.
However, a source in the National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM) informed G Plus that the numbers have tremendously increased and the city, at present, has approximately 30,000 vendors occupying the streets.
Every month, hundreds of new street vendors are added and the only solution to the problem is to stop new vendors from occupying the streets of Guwahati, the source added.
The administration had identified a total of 58 vending zones across the city. The zones might have been identified but they were never notified, a GMC source said. The source added that in the past nothing much had happened and therefore now, the urban local body has decided to develop the eight identified zones.
The GMC source further added that a survey to identify the zones was conducted earlier but the traffic police department didn’t approve of the results.
Due to the delay in completion of official formalities, vendors of Guwahati still remain deprived of authorised vending zones and other facilities as mentioned in the relevant Act. According to the Act, all street vendors who are identified in the survey should avail identity cards or certificates of vending.
The Act says, “Every street vendor, identified under the survey, who has completed the age of fourteen years or such age as may be prescribed by the appropriate government, shall be issued a certificate of vending by the Town Vending Committee.”
But in Guwahati, work on issuing certificates is yet to be initiated. According to NULM officials, the process will start once relocation of vendors in the notified vending zones is completed.
"Despite formation of the Town Vending Committees, no work has been done for the welfare of vendors. The Vendors’ Act speaks about various facilities for vendors, but we have not availed anything," alleged a member of the Street Vendors’ Association of Assam.
Street vendors dissatisfied with alternative trading premises
Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) and the District Administration have been carrying out drives against street vendors to “keep Guwahati clean and free from congestion on the footpaths or even on the street.”
The vendors however have expressed dissatisfaction with the alternative arrangements made for them and staged a strong protest demanding a better arrangement for relocation.
“We will continue selling our products on the street if we are not relocated to better places,” Prantosh Kundu, a seller, told G Plus.
The eviction drives had been protested against by various vendors who've been demanding for separate vending zones and had also approached the Gauhati High Court for the same. The Court had then asked the GMC to fix the vending zones at the earliest.
“Because of the eviction drives, we feel like peddlers of clothes. We run when the GMC and the police chase us. This is so bad for business. Due to the evictions we have lost area. We sell only in small quantities as we have to be ready to flee with our goods when the officials come. There is no variety and we sell less stock,” said Hari, who has been in the business for over 20 years.
In January 2018, the GMC had decided to set up vending zones in the city to deal with the collective problems of the people, vendors and the administration. The authorities soon after announced six vending zones.
However, the setting up of vending zones continues to be a far cry with their development works yet to begin.
“We have identified a total of eight vending zones in the city so far - Borbari, Kachari, Ganeshguri, Uzan Bazar, Chandmari, Fancy Bazar Ful Gali, GMC market and Lakhtokia (Railway Gate No. 2). The engineers have prepared detailed project reports (DPR) but they’re pending approval,” informed Sanjib Das, city project manager, NULM.
Although the administration had enumerated 7,183 vendors, it should be mentioned that these vending zones combined have a capacity of only 769 vendors.
“Technically speaking, to accommodate all the 30,000 vendors, over 3 crores sq ft of land area is required. So it’s technically not possible for the administration to give space to all of them,” expressed a source in the GMC.
Due to such problems, places like Ulubari, Uzan Bazar, Sarabbhati, Lal Ganesh, Chandmari, Beltola and so on are witnessing a huge increase in the number of vendors occupying the footpaths and even parts of the streets.