GMC Fails to Implement Vending Zones Even after 5 Years of Vendors’ Act
Street vending expanding at alarming rate in the city
Guwahati is one of the fastest-growing cities in India. However, rapid urbanization spurs its own sets of issues. One of the major concerns of the city today is the popping up of vendors in almost every road and lane.
Guwahati Municipal Corporation’s (GMC) survey back in 2015 showed that 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 hana/puchka/bhel puri vendors and 1,631 others. However, the Assam Street Vendors’ Association (ASVA) claims that there are more than 40,000 vendors in Guwahati as on date.
The influx of these many vendors across the city without any valid recognition and proper vending zones is something that cannot be overlooked.
The Street Vendors’ (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 regulates street vendors in public areas and protects their rights.
The Act states that all vendors are to be accommodated in vending zones and no vendors are allowed to carry out such activities in no-vending zones. But even after 5 years of its commencement, GMC is yet to implement it in full force.
After the Act was passed in March 2014, a Town Vending Committee (TVC) was formed in Guwahati which is headed by the GMC commissioner with members from various sectors like NGOs, 40% members from vendors, banks and the police department. Today there are a total of 20 members with 8 members from ASVA.
From all this, it may be brought to notice that the TVC has not served its purpose and meetings are not held regularly. Consequently, GMC is yet to establish any vending zones in Guwahati.
The administration had earlier proposed 8 vending zones in Borbari, Kachari, Ganeshguri, Bhangagarh, Uzan Bazar and Silpukhuri. But these locations are yet to be notified.
Naren Rajbongshi, President of ASVA, told G Plus, “Two tenders were called for the vending zones at Panbazar and Borbari but there is no development as of yet. Rs 8,72,500 was sanctioned for the Panbazar vending zone. Also around Rs 22 lakhs remain unspent under the National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM) for development of vending zones in the city.”
GMC Commissioner, Debeswar Malakar, said that the implementation of two vending zones at Borbari near IIHM and Panbazar opposite Meghdoot Bhawan are at the initial stage. The project would be funded by NULM; its cost is estimated to be Rs 20 lakhs in total.
However, only the 7,183 vendors who were identified during the 2015 survey would be allotted settlement. He denied taking responsibility of the others who have come in after the survey.
Talking about the encroachment by vendors at random places that often lead to traffic blockage, Rajbongshi said, “Authorities should first identify the no-vending zones so that the association could also prevent the vendors from opening shops anywhere as per their whims.”
It is to be mentioned that eviction drives are carried out to prevent traffic jams and mostly during VIP visits or during major events. But no step has been taken by authorities to tackle the problem permanently.
Lately, Municipal Corporation Police (MCP) has been seen to be deployed at major vending hubs by the Enforcement Department. MCP personnel are seen in the illegal vending area at SS Road Fancy Bazaar. They are present from 10 am to 5 pm to prevent re-establishment of stalls by the vendors.
Talking to G Plus a few of the vendors said, “We usually display our products on a large polythene sheet or other temporary setups so that we can remove the shop as soon as the authorities come for eviction.” Most vendors said that they start the business post 5 pm after the MCP leaves.
One vendor said, “My family has been vending for a long time at this same place. My father set up the shop 12 to 15 years back in this area and we had documents and registration of the same. However, the authorities have evicted us from the place and now we have nowhere to go.”
Although the vendors were relocated to the GMC market of Fancy Bazaar, they refused to settle in there alleging that the space was small and the allotted top floors would be highly inconvenient to their kind of business.
GMC losing revenue due to lack of registered vending zones
It is to be mentioned that due to lack of recognized vending zones the GMC authorities are not being able to collect revenues from the vendors. This has resulted in a huge loss to the state government.
Chandan Goswami, General Secretary of the Street Vendors’ Association said, “As he vendors are not yet registered and no proper placement has been provided, regular revenues cannot be collected.”
G Plus asked vendors of some of the markets regarding payments to concerned authorities. Most said that while payment for the setting up shop is not collected, they have to pay Rs 20 daily to the appointed NGOs for garbage disposal. This is an amount of Rs 600 per month per vendor.
However, some vendors claim that even after payment with proper receipt the garbage is not collected daily.