Street Vendors: Traffic Hazard or Service Providers?

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Every single day, all of us pass across hundreds of streets, scores of markets and dozens of crossings that are perpetually teeming with the sights, the sounds and the smells of thousands of street vendors-some selling those tangy churans, magazines, English bestsellers, and car accessories. And of course, can we ignore the various vendors at the traffic signals compelling us to buy anything from facial tissues to flowers to balloons? It is also not an uncommon sight in our country to see women haggling over the price of vegetables and fruits. However strangely enough, these street vendors, who form an integral part of our country’s workforce, are often looked upon as a traffic hazard rather than service providers! During the Commonwealth Games in 2010, there were reports of these vendors being forcibly evicted from the by-lanes of Connaught Place in order to ‘beautify and clean the city’. Our Constitution directs the State to promote equal opportunities for all, and we suppose that a vendor’s rights to equality before the law, social justice, and freedom to choose his occupation are human rights too. Why does the State then treat them as a nuisance to society? Why then are they treated with disrespect and at par with beggars? No, they are NOT beggars. In fact, they can be considered as micro entrepreneurs. A United Nations report of 2009 says that, ‘street vending is both, a survival strategy for those who could not find formal employment, and as an alternative earning for those who prefer to be independent’. So we could say that the rising population and decreasing job opportunities has contributed to the rising number of street vendors. Hence, in the absence of enough job opportunities people are forced to look for alternative modes of earning their livelihood. And is it not enough that they are braving the high heat, the cold winters and the rain to earn rather than beg or steal? The street vendors represent one of the lower strata of the Indian society....
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