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Of hawkers and the law

Editor,

You said in the article titled “Hawkers may have rights but what about responsibilities?” (ST June 17, 2016) that, “If individuals and groups are allowed to violate the rule of law then anarchy will prevail.”  Here’s the deal. Brutality from the police and the municipal is in direct violation of an Act called The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 of the Indian Government. Illegal imposition of fines, confiscation of goods and not to mention the usage of filthy language by representatives of the Government, is an everyday reality for hawkers. You say they are the culprits behind the congestion and pollution in Shillong? Well, the way I see it, roads are made bigger for vehicles and space is also devoured by the rampant construction of buildings, particularly huge commercial complexes. Who is Shillong slowly being designed for?  People with vehicles? The private sector? You ask us to take a walk around Iewduh, well, I actually do that on an everyday basis yet I don’t encounter any problem whatsoever with regards to space. In fact, since I’m one of those who come home very late, as a woman, I feel even safer walking through those hawker-filled lanes since they are never dark and deserted.

By the way, the aforementioned law also specifies that street vendors cannot be evicted from natural markets (of which Iewduh is one). Furthermore, it is truly a bad idea for hawkers to set up shops near my house like you suggested, because my locality is unfortunately not commercial and hence, would not be profitable for them. So, as much as I would want them to come and give me company, I doubt they’d agree since they have a livelihood to be concerned about and not mingle with us in our “socialist” homes. And excuse me but blaming hawkers for polluting the streets is just plain absurd. Most of the waste in commercial areas comes from big shops and I know for a fact that hawkers get their respective spaces cleaned every day. The waste issue in the world would exist with or without hawkers. It is more about the disposal of waste that we should be thinking of and the consumption patterns of our society. Just because waste is not visibly there, doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem. The Pacific Ocean, as we know, is full of waste materials from the United States, massively destroying the fauna and flora of that environment.

The only thing that the middle and upper-middle class of Meghalaya could think of is the sight of Shillong as a smart city which, in case you weren’t aware, feeds on extractive industries and not to mention, is a perfect manifestation of class segregation. What is often forgotten is that hawkers are service-providers who are part of the informal sector, and they heavily contribute to the economy of the state. I don’t know about you, but I like my vegetables, junk food, fruits, kwai and cigarettes straight from the streets. So it’s not only a case of hawkers needing us but us needing them more.

What I urge you to do is to please go through the National Act that I referred to which clearly states that a Town Vending Committee needs to be formed in each locality to carry out surveys and finally decide on vending regulations, including waste. In fact section 34 of the Act states that the Committee needs to look into the capacity building and education of hawkers, especially with regards to their roles in the informal sector. Interestingly, the Meghalaya Street Vendors and Protection of Livelihood Act, 2014, excludes many of the provisions in the central act which would be empowering for hawkers; the most important one being the reduction of minimum participation percentage of the hawkers community in the Town Vending Committee from 40% (as stated in the central Act) to 2%. So we could think of many solutions for this perceived problem but without the consultation and meaningful participation of the hawkers themselves in the decision-making processes, nothing substantial would come out of it.

And you may have called us “anarchists”, but what we present to you and what we use to counter anti-people government action is the law of the land.

Yours etc.,

Gertrude Lamare,
TUR.

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