Over 50 street vendors, who were selling fruits and tea outside the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), now see no way of running their families after the Kamrup (Metro) district administration evicted them in order to clear the pavements.
“The hospital gives us hope to live for tomorrow. The vendors are dependent on the patients, attendants, hospital staff and vehicle drivers. We come here early in the morning and wait for the customers to sell our products – tea, chappatis, fruits, mineral water bottles. That is how we run our family,” Manju Boro, a vendor, said.
She said she had to borrow money to feed her children during the complete lockdown last year. “My husband and me have been running this tea stall for last four years. Every time, they come and destroy the properties by evicting the stall mercilessly. They are government officers. They have nothing to worry to have two square meals. We have worries if we’ll be able to arrange the next meal or not,” she added.
The evicted vendors urged the government not to snatch their livelihood by evicting them from outside the GMCH.
Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) authority said, “The vendors and hawkers were illegally encroaching public streets and pavements of GMCH area causing traffic congestion as well as inconvenience to the pedestrians. Therefore, the vendors have been evicted. We have also evcited illegal street vendors in other parts of the city.”
The GMC has deployed 40 Municipal Corporation Police (MCP) in the GMCH area so that further roadside re-settlement of street vendors and hawkers can be avoided in the interest of public.
Naren Rajbongshi, president of Assam Street Vendors’ Association, claimed that there was a street vending zone outside the GMCH.
“We do not know who and how made the zone as non-vending zone. It’s okay they have evicted them for some purpose. But, the vendors should be relocated at a business-suitable place as per the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood & Regulation of Street vending) Act 2017. The vendors have been asked to settle their business at Rukmininagar, over 1 km distance from the hospital. Who will go to Rukmininagar to have a cup of tea or have chapattis,” he added.
He further said there is only one GMC notified vending zone. The zone is at Panbazar. “Till date, the government has not created any suitable vending zone for the street vendors. Where will they go? What will they do to live?” he said adding that “this lower section of the society has lost its freedom of speech”.
Besides, he said government should do survey of street vendors in every five years. “But it is not doing that. Last survey was conducted in 2015. Last year, the GMC initiated to conduct the survey. Unfortunately, nobody know at which stage the survey is at present,” he added.
The city had over 20,000 street vendors before the pandemic broke out last year; of which, around 8500 GMC registered street vendors. Most of the street vendors were from outside the city. Vendors from nearby districts like Nalbari, Darrang, Kamrup and Barpeta used to come to Guwahati with their products by train or bus or by hiring vehicle to sell their products. After doing business for the day, they used to return by evening to their home towns or villages.
The inter-district movement is currently banned in the state. This led to decrease in number of street vendors in the city.