Over 200 street vendors were forcefully evicted and their carts damaged in Bangalore’s Vijayanagar on July 3. The vendors were evicted on the orders of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). The police in its eviction drive caused enormous damage to the shops and the stock of the vendors who have been earning their livelihood from the market for the past several years. Describing the demolition drive, 53-year-old Babu told Newsclick, “The drive started early in the morning at 9, there was a heavy police presence, the police refused to engage with us or show us any notice and they straight out started causing damage to our carts, they started breaking everything, causing chaos and distress among the street vendors.”
The demolition drive that was carried out by the police and the BBMP is being viewed as the direct contempt of the 2016 Karnataka High Court order. The order had stated that street vendors are exempt from being termed as “encroachers” and that corporation action against encroachments would be aimed at shop owners, hotels or structure owners. The observations of the court, therefore, did not apply to street vendors within the meaning of the said Act of 2014. In 2010, the Supreme Court recognised street vending as a source of livelihood and the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 was designed. The legislation regulates street vendors in public spaces and protects their rights.
It clearly instructs the Town Vending Committee to conduct a survey of all the street vendors in the city and provide them with the Certificate of Vending and ID cards. According to the Act, this survey needs to be done once in every five years and it explicitly says, “Every street vendor shall have the right to carry on the business of street vending activities in accordance with the terms and conditions mentioned in the certificate of vending.”
Also read: Street Vendors in Bengaluru Demand ID Card and Certificate of Vending
The vendors from Vijaynagar pointed out that all of them carried certificates and therefore, should not have been evicted. Speaking to Newsclick, Thipperudraiah said, “I have been working here for the past fifteen years and I haven’t witnessed anything as brutal as the crackdown today, when the BBMP officials started targeting us, the police came to give them protection instead of us, as though we have committed a crime by resisting to let go of our livelihood, the demolition today is a complete violation of the court order as it exempts us from the definition of an encroacher.”
He added, “In its bid to clear us out from the streets, the BBMP had stated that it will create an underground Palika Bazaar where they would relocate all 200 shops, the work for the Bazaar started way back in 2017 and is nowhere close to finishing even in 2019.”
This is not the first time that the BBMP has unleashed violence like this on the street vendors. On July 15, 2018, street vendors in the IT hub of Whitefield in Bengaluru were illegally evicted, and it is not for the first time such evictions have taken place in the city. Bengaluru street vendors have always been under the threat of losing their livelihood.
The street vendors in the city have been protesting over the issues of ID cards, utilisation of funds for their welfare. Following the protests, the BBMP had conducted a survey in September-October 2017, however, it could cover only 25,000 street vendors, while according to the Bengaluru Jilla Beedhi Vyapari Sanghatanegala Okkuta is a registered federation of street vendors’ trade unions across Bengaluru there are actually over two lakh street vendors. The survey, however, has resulted only in counting, but not distribution of the ID cards or certificates of vending, for what the surveys were done in the first place. The federation had also stated that the BBMP had allocated Rs 2 crore for the welfare of the street vendors, but is not utilising it as the beneficiaries cannot identify themselves.
The demolition and the forceful eviction of the street vendors in the city has gone on to show how the urban working classes still have to fight an uphill battle against the state to stake claim to public spaces for their livelihood. The vendors have vowed to mobilize against the municipal corporation and stage protests against the contempt of the court.