Sunday, 3 March, 2024

Risky Street Vending

People, including those who are physically disabled, old and unemployed, are found to be selling different items on the streets, roadsides and even on overhead crossings. While this is a livelihood, employment and financial security issue for the concerned vendors, there are also problems related to road obstructions, garbage generation and traffic congestions that are nagging the municipal officials and the road users. The problem is chronic and needs proper management so that the capital city does not look messy with obstruction in smooth mobility. The municipal authorities should come up with a permanent solution to this chronic problem rather than applying ad hoc steps. The footpaths of the busiest roads of the capital valley are occupied by street vendors selling a variety of articles during the day and evening, much to the discomfort of commuters and vehicles.

The footpaths, many of which remain congested, are occupied by the vendors in the major city areas like New Road, Ratna Park, Sundhara, Balaju, Kalimati, Balkhu, New Baneshwor, Koteshwor. The pedestrians have to walk from the busy roads risking their life. They all add noise pollution, as the vendors keep on shouting to draw the attention of the passers-by. The vendors whose number is said to be around 35,000 in the Kathmandu Valley put their items for sale at busy points making sure the municipal cops are not around. When the metropolitan police personnel come around, they grab their items and run away. There is a blurred line between whether it is permissible or restricted. Everyone has right to start a business but it is not allowed on the busy public place. Unemployed people can approach the local government and demand employment schemes such as concessional loans and vocational skill development programmes.

As everyone knows, the issue of street vendors is not a new one, their number has swelled up with every political change in the country, and the governments have been making one recommendation after another to resolve the problem. But the problem is as it was in the early 1990s. Leaders make promises to solve the problem of street vendors and the economic compulsion of street vending, especially during the election time but the knot of the problem remains unsolved till date. Concerned authorities have been claiming that it is difficult to manage the street vendors because of their sheer numbers. More than a decade ago, a government committee had recommended relocating the street vendors to Khulamanch, Tinkune, Kalanki and Balaju. However, the recommendation was never implemented.

Instead of coming up with an acceptable and permanent solutions, the municipality authorities seem to be resorting to measures like snatching the wares of the poor vendors and evicting them forcibly from the streets. Legal and administrative measures to manage this problem should no longer remain ambiguous. The genuine grievances of the street vendors should also be heard and addressed so there will not be people compelled to vend their items in risky places like open streets where one has to bear the harshness of heat, dust, wind and rains. Alternatively, the concerned people should have the opportunity to start small business ventures somewhere else than on busy and hazardous public spaces.