By Kshitiz Siwakoti, Kathmandu, Mar. 23: Although authorities often reiterate to make Kathmandu's pedestrian-only areas free of street vendors, the government has yet to manage street vendors permanently.
The tussle between the street vendor’s survival by selling on the streets and the government’s attempts to evict them from the streets has remained unresolved so far for decades.
Neither of them intends to budge as street vendors say they have no alternative and the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) believes that street vending is illegal.
Gopi Krishna Acharya, a street vendor from Khotang district, who sells street food at New Baneshwor also works as a security guard during the day time. He said that he only earns Rs 12,000 a month as a security guard which is insufficient to survive with four members family.
"I have two daughters and a son to educate and a family to feed, so besides the job of a security guard, I must do street vending,” Acharya told the TRN Online.
“We work in the evening from six to nine, beyond that the Metro police will harass us,” Acharya added.
Ganesh Bahadur Saud, another street vendor from Sudurpaschim Province who sells street food in New Baneshwor used to run a guest house but the earthquake of 2015 destroyed his guest house and with it his sole source of income also.
“Initially when I started on this work I did not know street vending and the metro police confiscated my cart. How can someone be so heartless to take away someone’s only means of income?” he expressed his grief.
Khilanath Basnet, the Chairperson of the association related to Rickshaws and street vendors said that street vendors are working in the streets only out of compulsion and if the government could provide better employment opportunities they would clear the pedestrian lanes.
“The fact that street vendors exist shows the indifference and the incompetency of the government to provide better employment opportunities,” Basnet said.
“The KMC thinks that the solution to remove street vendors from the footpaths is by confiscating their carts. How is this the solution when they are plunging poor people more into the depths of poverty?” Basnet argued.
He believes that the problem of crowding in the footpath by the street vendors can be solved if the government allocates certain designated areas to street vendors.
Basnet suggested that KMC can emulate the idea of a weekly fair market within various parts of the city as this has been very successful in the cities of the Terrain region. Along with allocating designated spaces, they can also register street vendors.
“Registering street vendors can facilitate a more regulated market and the government can also charge them with taxes. Confiscating their carts will not help anybody,” Basnet further added.
The KMC Municipal Police Chief, Dhanpati Sapkota has however cited safety concerns regarding street vending. “Street vendors are in a way responsible for causing accidents and that they are destroying the beauty of the city by crowding on the footpath,” Sapkota said.
Further, he also added that the KMC does not recognise or give priority to the informal sector. “What they are doing is simply illegal,” Sapkota said.
Sapkota further added that the KMC has allocated various designated areas where vendors are free to sell vegetables and other commodities in such spaces but not on the streets.
According to Sapkota due to the lack of space in Kathmandu, a weekly fair market is not possible “During 1991-1992 we had allocated space in Bhrikuti Mandap for street vendors. Look where has that got us now its way too crowded for the place to be managed,” Sapkota said.