The street vending is one of the oldest forms of retail in the country. It is a viable source of employment for many irrespective of gender, age, education, and so forth. India’s formal sector fails to generate employment while informal economy has multiplied between 50 to 80 percent of newly created jobs. Several studies reveal that about 10 million persons are involved in hawking/street vending ‘of articles, goods, wares, food items or merchandise of everyday use or offering services to the general public, in a street, lane, sidewalk, footpath, pavement, public park or any other public place or private area, from a temporary built up structure or by moving from place to place and includes hawker, peddler, squatter.’ The NSSO data reveal that nearly 200000 women and 21500 children are engaged in the street vending and around 1.18 million households are dependent on this informal sector as their primary source of income. It has been observed that the number of persons in the street vending has been radically increased during the time of Covid-19 lockdown because of joblessness in other sectors. A significant number of populations has no alternative livelihood. Even they have no saving to lead their normal life with basic necessity.
The street vending was legalized after six decades. The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 was enacted with various provisions for the well-being of this section. But they are still neglected by the government. They have been mostly affected due to Covid-19 lockdown. The PM SVANidhi (Pradhan Mantri Street Vendors Atmanirbhar Nidhi) is a central sector scheme for the street vendors launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs on 1st June 2020 to provide affordable working capital loans up to 10000 rupees with a 1-year tenancy to street vendors to resume their livelihoods. Unfortunately, state like West Bengal is indifferent. The authority has not followed the basic guidelines for the survey and preparation of a list for licensing the street vendors. Therefore, the street vending population is out of coverage of the above scheme.
Furthermore, it has been studied that in the new normal days, their business has been badly affected because of reducing sales volume. The selling rate of their goods has been reduced roughly 30-40%. Therefore, their income has been reduced, and they are in trouble to manage their livelihood in the new normal days. They shared, ‘consumers’ behaviour has been changed due to several reasons. Firstly, they are yet afraid of infection of Covid-19. They suspect the spread of infection. Secondly, they are limiting their purchasing capacity due to thick and thin financial condition. The majority of our customers are middle and lower- income group who have either lost their jobs or their earning has been reduced. Thus, they control their buying ability.’
From a case study of a street vendor named Puspa(36) who sells vegetables at the railway platform, it has been recorded that her sales volume has been reduced by 30%. She shared, ‘I had to go for marketing of vegetables every day for Rs.1000/-. I earned Rs.300-400/- per day. Now I have to take three days or more to sell vegetables for Rs.1000/-. Now I earn Rs.300/- per three days. It is great difficulty to manage my 5 headed family.’
This situation reveals that our economy in the new normal days is facing an adverse effect. An economic boost of the central government is not properly reflected in the daily lives of the majority in a difficult situation. The government policies and programmes might be just considered as a mouthful assurance.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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