Lakhs of street vendors in Bengaluru have been badly impacted due to the lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19. We are on the 30th day of lockdown, and 90% of the city’s street vendors have not been able to carry out their livelihood as they would during normal circumstances.
There are several news reports of migrant workers being stranded without wages and food. However, street vendors are also facing a similar situation. Neither can they carry out their sole means of earning, which is street vending, nor do not have an employer from whom they can demand wages.
“If we do not sell our wares, we cannot sustain our families. There is no one who will pay us if we cannot carry out our vending,” says S Babu, president of Bengaluru Jilla Beedhi Vyapari Sanghatanegala Okkuta. In fact, street vendors do not enjoy the benefits of social security measures of the state either, which makes it difficult for them to sustain themselves and their families. Most vendors also stay in rented houses, but have no income for paying rent, electricity and water bills.
The food relief extended by the government is also very little. Street vendors, like other ration cardholders, get only rice through PDS (Public Distribution System). With no income, they find it difficult to purchase Dal. They demand that the government provide Dal and other essential items as prescribed, along with the ration.
Some street vendors have been allowed to sell fruits and vegetables, but they are few in number. All major street vendor markets are closed – Jayanagar 9th Block, Malleswaram, Gandhinagar, Vijayanagar, Shivajinagar, Hosa Road Market, etc.
On the topic of street vending, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India, had issued a letter dated 03.04.2020 to the Principal Secretaries of all States, bearing File no. K- 13011(11)/123/2017-UPA-II-Section (FTS-1344546). The letter had stated that urban street vendors are facing the risk of losing their livelihoods during lockdown, and that they play an important role in the supply of essential items to the citizens at affordable prices. Despite these directions, street vendors have not been able to sell their wares.
The Bengaluru Jilla Beedhi Vyapari Sanghatanegala Okkuta had made a representation to BBMP on April 15, demanding that BBMP step up efforts to protect street vendors in the city, asking that we be allowed to vend, given a one-time grant, among other things. Post this, the officials have asked street vendors to submit an application with their details. We welcome this and we hope that this is acted upon immediately.
However, BBMP has promised to give grants only to vendors with ID cards. Efforts must be made to give this benefit to all existing vendors and not just to those with ID cards.
Street vendors can set up community kitchens, deliver essentials
Following are some suggestions which we have already made to the government:
- We have made several demands to involve street vendors in community kitchens that could be set up to feed migrant workers on a regular basis. The government has so far not acted on this proposal.
- We have asked BBMP to set up markets in open spaces to ensure the protocols prescribed to contain the spread of the disease, and to allow street vendors to register for door-to-door delivery of essentials which is an initiative of BBMP itself. However, after some initial attempts, nothing has happened. Additionally, farmers are unable to sell their produce. We ask that the government help street vendors and farmers coordinate so that we have items to sell and farmers also don’t face a crisis.
- All street vendors be given a one-time grant of Rs 25,000 to help resume business and to allow us to manage food expenses
- All street vendors be allowed to vend with physical distancing, at grounds or other spaces
- Provide a dry ration kit to all street vendors which will last us till may end
[This article is based on a press release from Bengaluru Jilla Beedhi Vyapari Sanghatanegala Okkuta, and has been published with minimal edits]