Street vendors up in arms against their eviction in Rajgir (Bihar) and Patiala (Punjab)

All tall claims of pro-poor good governance and inclusive development seem to fall flat in Bihar and Punjab with a large population of street vendors in both the states remains insecure and marginalized.  Two years back, the Bihar government announced to create vending zones at all urban centers, but not a single vending zone has yet come up in the state. As usual, the administration and the police ride roughshod on poor street vendors and harass and evict them under this or that pretext.

Last year when street vendors in Patna, Rajgir, Dalsinghsarai, Muzaffarpur and Motihari protested the eviction drives, the evictors had to retreat.  During that period NASVI had supported the struggling vendors and taken up the issues with Bihar chief minister, urban development minister, respective district magistrates and superintendents of police. The state human rights commission was also approached and the commission also had taken up the issue with respective district administration.

This year the Rajgir administration has again returned to its old anti- vendor role and it is threatening the vendors to vacate the streets at several points. The vendors allege that the administration never touches the public land grabbers, such as builders and private trusts, and always hounds out the street vendors who do not obstruct the free flow of traffic. This month, on 5 August, a large number of policemen led by Rajgir sub divisional magistrate descended on the streets to chase away the vendors.    More than 500 street vendors strongly protested the eviction move and demanded proper alternative arrangement. The agitating vendors encircled the SDM and threatened that if they faced forced eviction, they would be launching the anti-police-anti- government movement. The NASVI functionaries from Delhi called  Nalanda ( district under which Rajgir falls) district  magistrate and Rajgir SDM  demanding halt on the eviction drive and  protection of  vendors’ right to livelihood  as guaranteed by the Constitution and several verdicts of the Supreme Court of India.  The brave protest mounted by the vendors and the NASVI intervention forced the police contingent return to their stations.  Again, on 29 August, the police made attempts to break the carts and stalls of vendors, but they could not succeed in the face of stiff resistance posed by the vendors and their family members including women and children.

Similar situation is prevailing at Patiala in Punjab where street vendors have been told to vacate the streets.  The vendor leaders have approached the NASVI for intervention.  An action plan has been developed to counter the eviction. NASVI has called up Patiala municipal commissioner and mayor to convene a meeting of the municipal officials, the street vendor leaders and the NASVI representatives.

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