India’s streets are marked by street vendors who add vibrancy and diversity to the land’s cityscape.
Street vending is an ecosystem in and of itself and this ecosystem has been facing difficulties for a while now. As the population within cities are increasing, street vendors are facing an issue of scarcity in space availability.
While the development of infrastructure and the economy is important, there is no denying that street vending is a necessary part of the urban economy. It is a huge source of jobs and revenue for many people in India.
It enables self-employment, makes affordable goods easily accessible to the public and makes various goods available at convenient locations throughout the city. Street vending also keep the area buzzing and full of activity, adding colours and life to the streets.
Street vending is interconnected with the formal economy and is also a good business model. They have a higher profit margin and are capable of giving better discounts and offers to their customers as they wish. It is a necessary activity to distribute wealth better across the population.
For instance, small-scale workers in big hotels collectively receive a very small portion of the total income of the establishment, but the workers under small vendors could receive a higher fraction.
The issues faced by the vendors due to the increase in congestion in population and vehicles in the cities include lack of shelter, storage spaces, and toilet facilities and reduced availability of drinking water.
Currently, they are found to take up space meant for other purposes in streets, blocking pavements and parking areas. This creates trouble and discomfort for the public.
The most important step that should be taken to bring a solution to these problems is to provide secure spaces for the vendors to do their business to better manage them. Different areas can be allocated to different vendors and a collection of certain amounts as fees and license payments can be done. This also makes it easier to ensure cleanliness and anti-littering in the areas where street vending is widely practised.
For the spaces to be distributed most effectively, it is essential to study the surrounding land usage, existing pedestrian facilities and vehicle facilities, nearby landmarks, the type of area and goods sold, etc.
Existing mapping requires to be done to understand the number of vendors in a place at specific times. Whatever rearrangements are made, care should be taken to accommodate all vendors.
The requirements for vendors vary according to their products and means. Some vendors need platforms propped up on supports, some would require tarpaulin or any form of shelter, cold storage etc., some products could be hung from vertical supports, and others could be in the form of carts.
Innovative design innovations shall be made to curb the issues and satisfy the requirements of the vendors efficiently. The best management of existing space and time-sharing and putting unused spaces to use will help reduce space constraints and congestion in cities.
Providing umbrellas and seating arrangements, lockable storage units, mobile carts/platforms and basic facilities like toilets and drinking water are some of the basic needs of street vendors.
The government must contribute to better urban designing, integration strategies, space management and proper mapping of existing and future conditions. The vendors can also be provided with monetary benefits like loans or one-time grants. Ground rules should also be laid to ensure quality control, health and hygiene and also track counterfeit goods.
Time-sharing and off-street provisions are methods that are currently being adopted in some parts of India.
Here are some examples:
A large area of land is opened to vendors for 3 days a week. The municipal corporation provides basic facilities like pay toilets and drinking water, and a daily vending fee is collected, along with extra amounts for seating, shelter and electricity.
A separate area away from the main streets is allocated for vendors and designed so that a maximum number of vendors are allowed to work.
Street vending is an unavoidable part of the economic ecosystem of India at present. Many parts of the country like Ahmedabad, Surat, etc are actively working on the inclusion of the sector in the development of the cities. With the right planning and rearranging, street vending has a lot of growth potential.