The livelihood of street vendors in Bengaluru’s Jayanagar area was once again threatened due to the actions of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) on Friday, January 12. BBMP marshals forcefully conducted an eviction drive in Jayanagar's 27A Cross, 4th Block. Vendors pleaded to continue their business, but BBMP officials seized their items, leading to a protest that lasted into the night.
While BBMP officials maintained that it was not an eviction drive but a measure to eliminate encroachments, vendors expressed disappointment over the failure to uphold assurances given earlier. Manjula, a fruit vendor for 20 years, had her cart and goods taken away. Abdul Hamid, a licensed clothes vendor, was asked to leave despite having a valid BBMP card.
Advocate Vinay Sreenivasa, a member of the Street Vendors Union, decried BBMP's actions, labelling the seizure of goods and eviction as illegal. He pointed out that vendors possessed valid ID cards and were abruptly asked to vacate without prior notice. He revealed ongoing challenges, saying, "BBMP marshals have been harassing vendors with valid IDs. We have met BBMP multiple times, and despite assurances, no meetings have taken place."
Street vendors, integral to the fabric of Bengaluru, endure persistent harassment from various quarters, such as the police, resident welfare associations, and municipal authorities due to their occupation of public spaces. The enactment of the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act in 2014 aimed to shield vendors from ongoing harassment and safeguard their livelihoods, all while contributing to the establishment of a more organised urban landscape.
Under the Act's provisions, urban local bodies are mandated to establish a Town Vending Committee (TVC), comprising 40% elected representatives from the community of street vendors. This committee assumes the responsibility of overseeing and making decisions concerning the welfare of street vendors.
The legislation further necessitates that planning authorities like BBMP undertake a comprehensive survey every five years to identify all street vendors within the city, encompassing those who are mobile and travel with their merchandise. Vending zones are then to be delineated within the city based on the survey findings. Additionally, all vendors identified through the survey are entitled to receive licenses. The BBMP hasn’t conducted this survey since February 2023. Most of the licenses were given in 2017, during the first street vendors survey, and have expired.
This technically means that the civic body cannot undertake evictions without a new survey being conducted.
Vinay also outlined efforts made by the vendors, stating, "On December 27, 2023, we submitted a list of vendors with valid IDs and evidence of those without IDs but were provided loans by BBMP. We met BBMP on January 11, requesting them to instruct marshals not to disturb vendors ahead of the festival on January 14. Despite demonstrating space constraints, BBMP claimed there was no room for vending."
He added that the street vendors federation had measured the road, footpath and parking areas. “We showed them how every empty space is taken up by parking. They said they will send someone to measure but to no avail.”
Describing their adherence to regulations, Vinay said, "We were vending as per the Street Vendors Act, based on ID cards issued by BBMP. Marshalls, however, came to evict and seized carts."
The eviction drive, commencing at 1 pm on January 12, faced resistance as vendors protested on the road. BBMP resumed seizing carts on the other side of the road around 8 pm.
BBMP South Zone Joint Commissioner Jagadish K Naik visited the spot. After an hour-long discussion with the vendors, he agreed to hold a meeting and resolve the issue within seven days.
This incident follows a similar eviction drive in November 2023, where BBMP demolished stalls around the Jayanagar 4th Block shopping complex.