Street smart

Saturday 30 April 2005

Karnataka vendors take steps to protect their interests

karnataka's vendors' associations are lobbying for the implementation of the National Policy for Urban Street Vendors, passed by the Union ministry of urban development and poverty alleviation in 2004, in the state. They want the state government to grant them legal status by issuing identification cards and permitting vending in specific hawking zones, as per the policy. They gathered at Bangalore recently and formed a 10-member committee with a representative each from vendors' associations of 10 cities, including Dharwad, Karwar, Mysore, Bellary, Raichur and Shimoga, to pursue the matter.

"This is one of the early steps to get Karnataka vendors to tie up at the state level and link to the National Association of Street Vendors of India (nasvi)," said Arbind Singh of nasvi , Patna, who was present at the Bangalore gathering. "There is a policy to protect our right to vending, but we will continue being harassed as long as the state government does not implement it," complained Balakishna Gaonkar, vice president of Karwar Fruit Vendors Association (kfva) . Karwar Municipality has built a market for vendors with the help of a loan from the Asian Development Bank. It has provided 28 stalls to the vendors but this is highly insufficient. In protest, the vendors closed down the market in Karwar for 15 days in February 2005. The kfva also took the matter to the Karnataka High Court and sought defence through the national policy guidelines, but its petition was dismissed.

Vendors associations of Mangalore, Shimoga and Bangalore said they face a constant threat of eviction because of the government's beautification drives. This often translates into harassment by the municipality and the police. "There has been large-scale eviction in the Shimoga bazaar area and few vendors are seen there now," said Vijay Menon of Zilla Karunadu Okkali Bisida Footpath Association of Shimoga. Shimoga's vendors said they have to regularly pay bribes of Rs 10 to the municipality official and Rs 3 to the beat police to carry out their trade. Vendors of Raichur had a similar complaint.

The vendors demanded that if they are evicted from an area, they should have the right to choose an alternate area to carry on their trade. The national policy also calls for providing legitimate hawking zones in urban development plans.

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