Reflections over vendors’ eviction

I was in for a pleasant surprise when I visited Sector 17 Shopping Plaza a couple of weeks ago- all spruced up, free of the clutter created by the vendors who had virtually seized the entire area around the fountain, pavements and also the corridors in front of the showrooms.

 It was way back in 2017 that the shopping plaza was declared ‘No vending zone’, but in the absence of any action against illegal squatters and encroachers, vendors multiplied by the day, converting the posh market into veritable flea market. Forced by the Punjab and Haryana High court, the Chandigarh administration which had been turning a blind eye to the menace of hawkers spurred into action. As a result of the massive cleansing operation carried out by the MC and Chandigarh police, hawkers have disappeared from Sector 17 giving it an open look, restoring the glory of the iconic market.

However, not only the vendors of Sector 17 market have been removed but every sector market has been cleared of encroachers and kiosks. Gone are the fruit-vegetable rehris, the golgappa /chaat stalls and the illegal kiosks from markets in every sector. The road side tandoors have been dismantled. The dyers operating on the pavement have gone into hiding. The parking areas are less cramped but, I can still see a couple of permanently parked vehicles in almost every market  encroaching       upon the limited parking space. These rusted vehicles with flat tyres are not abandoned vehicles but, improvised godowns of shopkeepers used for stacking their goods at virtually no cost.              

I felt happy that the payments and roadsides have been cleared of all the vendors till the time I met a dhobi who makes his living by ironing clothes in my locality. Every day on my way to the neighourhood park, I am greeted by Radhe, the affable young dhobi. The other day when I walked past his shack at the corner of the payment, the place looked desolate and poor Radhe crestfallen. He had been warned by the police to pack up. “How will I provide for the family?” he asked.

As long as hawkers were just some unknown entities, their fate did not bother me. I felt good that MC has eventually got rid of the venders but the interaction with the dhobi made me feel the pain. I realized how big a tragedy it is to lose one’s means of livelihood. The Municipal Corporation has relocated the non essential category vendors to the alternate sites. The vendors falling in essential category like dhobis, cobblers, barbers etc. are not being dislocated. However, the issue is majority of them are not registered with MC. In fact, the number of registered vendors is much smaller as compared to the vendors and hawkers actually operating in the city. Hence many may lose their livelihood.

How can we snatch away the right of the poor to make a living?  How will they eke out their subsistence?   Engrossed in my thoughts as I was walking down , I was shaken by the sound of a horn. The driver wanted me to get aside to let his car pass.  I realized I was not walking on the pavement but on the lane meant for the vehicles. Where is the pavement for the pedestrians? There are cars parked on the sides of the park and on the road. The public land in front of the houses has been converted into the lawns, well maintained or unkempt.

I empathize with the vendors, but also understand that we cannot let the city be swamped by the illegal squatters and encroachers. However, if we really want our roads, streets and markets to be wider and neater, all encroachments have to go whether by the shopkeepers, the house owners or the vendors.

(Published on January 30, 2020 in Chandigarh Tribune)


14 Replies to “Reflections over vendors’ eviction”

  1. It’s very emotional,ma’am.I also feel pity on the poor when theirs unauthorised houses/shops are destroyed by MC.Encroachments causes a lot of disturbance
    to others and sometimes serious accidents.
    Ma’am my English has never been up to the mark.I still learn it a lot through your blog.Thank you .

    1. Thanks Garima .It’s not the language but these are the feelings, emotions and the content that matter.And you are pretty good at expressing yourself.
      Regarding the vendors’ eviction drive in Chandigarh, my feeling has been mixed. In fact, this piece has been an attempt to understand my own stand on the issue.

      1. How aptly you have put forth the emotions . We the ‘more privileged’ should definitely try and find a solution to this. Maybe the dhobis ,presswaalas,cobblers etc should be allowed to work in a ‘given’ area of a particular street/society. This will ensure their livelihood not being snatched away from them.

        1. Yes Priya ,under the Right to Livelihood Act, their rights have been protected but the problem is most are nor registered with Municipal Corporation .

          As it is implementation is always an issue. The moment there is laxity , for good or for bad, there are many who are back.

  2. I agree with you Rama that encroachment s have to go whether by the shopkeepers,, the house owners or vendors There are two pertinent questions :
    1. Do we want India 🇮🇳 to be Clean ?
    2. What about the fate of poor vendors ?
    The problem is so interwoven that only the astute administrators & public in general can help to ease out the situation.
    Again the solution lies on the shoulders of Citizens of India It will also sort out the problem of cleaning of pavements
    Love for your country should come from deep down your heart
    Rules can be made and can be implemented with ease with the help of Citizens

    1. Wow!What a response Mrs Chopra!Love for the country to come from the heart …the role and the responsibility of the citizens and public in general in keeping the pavements free of all kinds of encroachments…

  3. Dear Rama your story has been very well worded and excellently woven . Congratulations !
    My opinion about it
    Chandigarh administration need to be congratulated for the firm step that it has taken to remove illegal encrochment .

    1. Thanks Mrs Luthra. The article was my attempt to sort out my own thoughts on the issue. I am glad you have absolute clarity on the subject. Yes, finally I also feel all encroachments must go.

  4. Well done Rama. Very well worded. It talks about the restoration of old world charm of sector 17 as well as pathos of the plight of the vendors. It’s basically complacencies on the part of administration. They should’ve removed the vendors when the numbers were less. You are right in saying that encroachments of all sorts should go away. That would be true justice. The vendors should be allowed within the sectors till an alternative is worked out. Some poor people are actually suffering. Immigration into chandigarh is also a huge problem.

    1. Thanks Alka for all your kind words and also the input.It is a fact that no timely action is taken , the problem is allowed to compound and when it snowballs into a crisis, administration wakes up. That has been the problem with the vendors issue..

  5. You have raked up an issue whose solution is very difficult. It causes a conflict between mind and heart. Fast growth of population,lack of education,job opportunities and tendency to migrate to cities are the root causes of the problem. However I do sympathise with folks like Dhobhis,cobblers,cycle repair wala,Tandoor wala etc. who need close proximity to the residents for their livelihood. The residents too need easy approach close to them. Hence confusion persists about problem.

    1. True Mrs Sharma,conflict between the head and the heart! It is not only a question of livelihood for the vendors but we also need their services in close proximity. Actually the Right to Livelihood Act does not dislocate the essential service providers like dhobis, cobblers, cycle repair walas, tea stalls but the issue is majority of them are nor registered with the municipal corporation, hence illegal.

  6. Rama I share the same feelings with U, though the pavements are neat and broad now, walking is easier for peddlers and it enhanced the beauty of Chd but behind the glory is hidden unemployment and with results more chain snatching,theft and more beginning children around the lights. All ethics fail when you see your children and dear ones crying with empty stomach In our country where where unemployment is already a curse this government order helped to add more to it

    1. Very right Mrs Behl. Unemployment is definitely a major issue in the country. As a result of the eviction order, many vendors lose their livelihood .This is likely to result in more thefts and chain snatching incidents.A complex issue indeed!

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