Monday, 16.03.20

Street vendors / hawkers continue to strive for decent living

Decent work realization remains a core objective of the International Labour Organisation. In large economies like India, where the informal workforce is huge decent work deficits are quite visible.

Street Vendors Training Program, Photo credit – FES India

Today job creation is an important concern amidst growing unemployment in India. Whatever, employment is being generated, a large share gets absorbed in the informal economy. Some estimates peg the contribution of the informal economy to almost 50% of the GDP. This includes millions of hawkers / street vendors who are spread across the length and breadth of the country and are engaged in selling, right from daily need commodities to meeting the hunger pangs of the common citizen on the road. 

When we try to trace the origins of hawkers / street vendors we can traverse through the rich history of our country. With large scale migration, cities are becoming more and more crowded and space has emerged as a big challenge. These group of self-employed folks have become vulnerable and often harassed by authorities. This is despite the fact that Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act 2014 has got provisions for survey of legitimate street vendors and also participation of hawkers / street vendors in the overall governance of street vending in a city through participation in Town Vending Committees. Proper implementation of the Street Vending Act has been a longstanding demand of organized groups representing the street vendors / hawkers in India.   

With changing times, business challenges before these commoners has increased. Firstly, the competition among peers has manifolded and to add to their woes large scale consolidation of commodity sales through behemoths such as Amazon is eating into their businesses slowly yet steadily. In the long run, the impact can be huge for these small-time sellers who probably are not equipped enough to meet the economy of scale of these large enterprises. 

Authorities at all levels need to demonstrate compassion towards street vendors / hawkers who are determined to earn a decent living and are contributing in the growth of the national economy. They need to be supported and encouraged, of course within the parameters of the law. These groups could benefit through special awareness creation and empowerment about applicable laws, consideration in government schemes concerning skilling / re-skilling, lessons on sanitation / health and hygiene, promote their participation in discourse on public space(s), safeguard against unequal competition, environment and climate change planning and provision for social security coverage.

Street vendors / hawkers stand for dignified living and are an important link in providing need-based commodities / services to millions of citizens at competitive prices. They are integral to our daily chores and day to day living.

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Anup Srivastava is Program Adviser of the Labour and Industrial Relations project at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung India office in New Delhi.

For more information about the FES India work on trade, labour and social justice please contact the India-based Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Office and follow the facebook page for regular updates.

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
India Office

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India

+91-11-26561361-64
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info(at)fes-india.org
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