The Street Vendors' Story

  • Barnali Dutta / FG
  • India
  • Jun 27, 2014

Photographs: Prakhar Panday

Amidst the scenario of commercial skyscrapers and multi-storeyed residential complexes, Friday Gurgaon takes a look at various aspects of some routine activities that play a pivotal role in the lives of residents – including the floating population. This feature pertains to the ‘clan’ of Street Vendors, who cater to our assorted needs practically every day of the year - irrespective of time and clime. However, unlike other places (including New Delhi), the Street Vendors of Gurgaon are a harried as well as worried lot, since they have been compelled to eke out their living against numerous odds. In the quest to earn their daily bread, these vendors are often at the mercy of ‘local rules and rulers’. The threats come from the ubiquitous licence/permit civic authorities, the police, vested interests and the ‘mafia’; they are threatened with confiscation of their goods, restrictions on their trading activities, and eviction. ‘Protection money’ allows for a live and let live existence.

Although the Congress party mooted a novel Bill in 2012, which the Parliament ultimately endorsed as the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood & Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014, the spirit behind this Act seems to have been overlooked in Gurgaon – a State run by the very Party that moved the Bill. The Act was meant to help create a conducive atmosphere in which the Street Vendors could carry out their business with social dignity. To this end it was stipulated that 40% of the members of a Town Vending Committee (TVC) - in every Panchayat (village council), town and city - would belong to the community of Street Vendors. In addition to representations for SCs, STs, OBCs and Minorities, this Act also ensured that the representation of women in each of the TVCs would be one-third of its total strength.

Rajendra Saroha, General Secretary of the Gurgaon Dron Rehri Patri Union, a forum for vendors, mentioned that their Association had brought their issues to the notice of the Prime Minister’s Office by means of a petition. They have sought due recognition of their vocation by the Administration, along with financial support for bona-fide vendors. Citing the clauses from the Street Vendors Act, Saroha complained that the local authorities have failed to accommodate the vendors to the extent of 2.5 percent of the population in any particular ward or neighbourhood, as stipulated in the legislation. “The truth is that a majority of the vendors hail from obscure rural areas of Haryana and neighbouring states like Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, and are not seen as a ‘vote bank’,” said Saroha. He added that constant harassment by the police has been a major concern for the vendors; they function under an eternal fear of eviction.


In the absence of affordable restaurants in the entire City, and especially near work places, most of the office-goers and the floating population are compelled to rely on roadside vendors - dishing out items like Chhole Bhature, Kulche, Parathas, bread toasts with omelettes, noodles and the South Indian range of idlis, dosais and vadas. These Street Vendors have bridged a valid demand-supply gap. To survive, they have to oblige officials and staff of civic agencies and the administration. Latif, who owns a kiosk selling fruit juices - including seasonal fresheners - in the vicinity of Sahara Mall on MG Road, admitted that while the cops may not extract hard cash, they avail gratis in another form. “For instance, a group of eight policemen may come to my shop and have a glass each of mango shake, which may cost me Rs.200,” said Latif. As per the Street Vendors Act, an individual engaged in this vocation can have access to 6.3 feet of space, if static at one particular spot. “To help implement the Act, the Gurgaon Municipal Corporation hired the services of Kiran Software Solutions, for conducting an extensive ward-wise survey. Each aspirant vendor was given a form to fill, and this was then digitally compiled for ready reference and records,” said Senior Town Planner (STP) of Gurgaon Municipal Corporation, Sudhir Chauhan. He said the initial survey has estimated the number of vendors in the City to be around 15,000. Based on authentic verification of the details furnished by the vendor-applicants, the Administration would decide to whom, and where, the license to vend will be issued. He categorically said that the final number of licences might even be reduced, depending on various factors. He was also critical of certain political vested interests, which lured rural folk from remote locations to be a part of their on-going rallies; afterwards, many of these people are almost forced to become Street Vendors. On the harassment and other odds faced by them, Saroha recalled that numerous complaints against the civic authorities have been lodged in the past. For instance, a vendor named Lal Mohan Gupta had filed a case against the Deputy Mayor, for having resorted to hiring hoodlums to evict certain Street Vendors. However, when these instances were brought to the notice of Dr. Praveen Kumar, Commissioner, Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon, he responded vehemently and said: “Mere filing of a complaint or registering of an FIR is a mere accusation without any concrete proof. Hence it would be premature and unwise to comment or judge on any issue involving alleged corruption.” Amen.







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