Chandigarh was the “dream city” of Jawaharlal Nehru who believed in the unity of every Indian and where people from the bourgeois to proletariat class can get equal rights. It was the idea of Nehru to build a well-planned city which can be comparable to the other well-organised and developed cities of the world. So, this idea helped French architect Le Corbusier design this beautiful city. The dream of Nehru’s “well-planned” city is completed, but now street vendors of the city are not on the same plane they were. They have lost their place of work and suffering a decline in daily earnings.
The Street Vendor (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act 2014 which aims to “protect the rights of urban street vendors and regulate street vending activities and matters connected therewith or incidental thereto”. In the light of this act, the Municipal Corporation Chandigarh (MCC) has executed a “Street Vendor Plan” under which every verified street vendor has a right to do their business at a particular given fixed place by paying monthly charges to the MCC.
In July 2015, the MC Vendor Cell of the city started the regularisation process after the notice of Union Territory of Chandigarh Street Vendors (Protection and Regularisation of Street Vending) Rules, 2015. After this, the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation started taking some serious steps like resettling and reverification of street vendors.
Eventually, on 19 November, 2019, the Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered the MCC to resettle and relocate all the vendors at one particular place in the city rather than giving an individual street vendor a definite spot in the city as it was before. As a result of this, all the vendors lost their spot of business.
This step has affected not only the lives of street vendors but also common people. The city looks like Coketown, an imagined city in Charles Dickens’ Hard Times, where industrialisation pushed down the life of working-class and at last affected all the people in the city.
The same is happening in Chandigarh. We can take an example of Sector-34, which is a hub of different competitive exam institutes and students on their lunchtime like to eat affordable, good quality food at their nearby food vendors. Many students cannot afford to eat food at nearby dhabas and hotels. The situation is the same for students who are daily comers to the South Divisional State Library, Sector 34. The only sufferers of this situation are the vendors and common people because they cannot afford their daily common needs at high prices.
This drastic step of the MCC left all the vendors in despair and forced them to do their particular businesses at a fixed place, i.e. Sector-15 of Chandigarh. Approximately 950 vendors have been working there and the MCC has provided a space of 9’x6′ to every vendor.
All types of businesses like tea, fast food, juice and shakes, clothes, belts, etc., can be found in different rows. A large majority of workers are dissatisfied with this disastrous step because they were earning good money when they were working within the sectors. Now, they are not even getting adequate earnings to survive.
I met one of the vendors, Savan, who was earning well with his barrow of juice and shakes and I used to be his regular customer. But last month I met him in Sector 15 and listened to his problems regarding the decision of the MCC. Now, he is not even earning money to survive and complete his regular needs. He also added downheartedly that he and his family were planning to go back to their home town in UP. His words had the power to pierce anyone’s heart.
The MCC does many fun activities in the city like Rose Fest and this year they also provided helicopter rides to the people. MCC takes care of every person living in the Chandigarh. In my opinion, they should do something good for the lives of street vendors. They can take strict actions against illegal vendors. But they should provide a particular fixed spot like before to the legal and verified street vendors. The welfare of every citizen is the duty of the MCC. In the end, Chandigarh is looking empty without them and this city belongs to everyone.