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Nat’l Street Vendors Bill opens livelihood opportunities for urban vendors in Manipur

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By EMN Updated: Feb 22, 2014 7:30 pm
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Correspondent
IMPHAL, FEBRUARY 21

[dropcap]P[/dropcap]erhaps the most watched hour on the clock across Manipur would be 7:30 am in the morning, when at the strike of the clock people turn up the volume of their radio, eager for the morning news.
For 40-year old Ayesha, the news is the last thing on her mind. Three kilograms of rice for the day’s meal and school fees for her son is the single thought that fuels her cries to the morning buyers of Khwairamband Keithel.
Squatting near a garbage heap at the side of the street cutting through the main market of Manipur, she holds out some dried fish on a small plate to catch the attention of the buyers. Her father, a traditional Muslim Maiba, could not afford to educate all his children. Only two among his eight children went to school, that too only till Class V.
Ayesha’s own husband though literate has received only the basic education, and has no regular job. During the agricultural season, he sometimes gets around Rs. 200 a day working as agricultural labourer.“It was tough to run a house. Those days he gets some work, we will eat; when he doesn’t we make do with water,” recalls Ayesha. Shortly after the birth of her first child, Ayesha decided that she will go to Khwairamband Keithel to work as a street vendor.
“I was just 20 years old then. It was embarrassing, especially when someone scolds us for hawking in the streets, but hunger is a more dangerous enemy,” she said. Her husband too initially scolded her a lot, but when she started bringing in money, he stopped.
Ayesha today earns between Rs.200 to Rs.500 a day. “Those days when the police chase us away and does not let us vend, we go home empty-handed,” she said. Though she has not been able to educate her two elder daughters, she plans to educate her youngest son. “He is in Class VII now. He should study well so that he gets a good job and not run from pillar to post like us,” she said.
If Ayesha had been listening to the morning news on Wednesday last, she would have got down on her knees and along with other street vendors in and around Khwaramband Keithel offered a prayer of thanks to Allah on hearing that the National Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2013 has been passed by the Parliament. The Bill will enable urban street vendors like Ayesha to vend and earn a livelihood with dignity and without harassment by the police or other people. A recently concluded study by Imphal based organisation Women Action for Development (WAD) of 200 street vendors in and around Khwaramband Keithel has found that altogether 39.5% of them are sole earners in their families. The majority of the street vendors are in the age group of 41-50 years, followed closely by those in the age group of 31-40 years. While some of them have been vending for less than a year, the majority have been vending for 6-15 years. At least two of them have been vending for more than 50 years.
The study further says that almost one-third of them are either widowed, divorced or separated, while nearly half of them (41%) have not received any education. Only about 11 % of them have undertaken higher education (above Class X). Almost one in every two women street vendor has a husband who drinks alcohol. Among the husbands who drink alcohol, half of them drink every day. Around 31 % of the women street vendors have been picked up/arrested by the police for vending.
According to Sobita Mangsatabam, secretary of Women Action for Development (WAD), the need of the hour is a comprehensive survey of the street vendors to understand why they come out to vend and how they could be helped. “The fact that there are so many street vendors is a reflection of the failure of the government system. There are so many government schemes which are aimed at providing food, education, work and security to the people. We need to question now whether these are actually reaching people like the street vendors,” she says.

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By EMN Updated: Feb 22, 2014 7:30:51 pm