Street businesses employ millions of families across South Asia, where thousands earn their living by selling goods on streets, sidewalks and other open public spaces. It has been a major source of income for the poor city residents as well as a source of relatively cheap goods for city dwellers. Street business is the most visible aspect of the informal sector, where thousands of people earn their living by selling goods on streets, sidewalks and other open public spaces.
Due to lack of skills, knowledge and education to get good paying jobs in the formal sector, people who migrated from rural areas are often involved in street business. In many developing and underdeveloped countries like Nepal, large proportions of employers are involved in the informal sector. According to official statistics from African, Asian, and Latin American cities, street vendors account for 2 to 24 percent of total urban informal employment. According to studies, street vendors suffer the most torture from the police. According to the study, 86.6 percent of street vendors are totally dependent on street business as their main source of income. The main reasons for street vendors to engage in street businesses were lack of alternative employment opportunities, ensuring household food security and supplementing income from other activities. A study has concluded that the street business has contributed to improving the standard of living of street vendors.
Street business can be a boon rather than a problem if managed properly. As it provides work, employment and livelihood to the poor people, it can become a solution to decrease the rising unemployment rate. Poor migrants have somehow gathered their capital assets, but much thought is yet to be given for effective management and planning on how to preserve the beauty of the city’s environment and simultaneously provide space for street vendors to conduct their business in a sustainable manner.
Along with the establishment of local government in villages, market and urbanization has also increased in villages. The market for business at the local level has also started to develop. In this sense, there is a need for the local levels of Nepal from cities to villages to formulate policies for street business management. If an orderly environment for street business is created, more opportunities will be created for the citizens to engage in employment and economic activities. It seems that the municipality will have a double benefit if they bring a policy to manage the street business and collect revenue from them. The first benefit is that the residents of the city are involved in economic activities, which increases their per capita income, makes living easier, and on the other hand, the internal income of the municipality will also increase if the street vendors can be organized and brought into the revenue system.
Analyzing the population based on the gender of business, business firms and company owners operating in the municipality, the number of firms owned by women is less than half compared to men. But in the street business, women are more involved. It also helps in women entrepreneurship and women empowerment. Only low and middle income earners benefit from street business. A study of street vendors in South Asia shows that in almost all Asian countries, street businesses have no legal standing to legally operate their businesses and are constantly abused by the state.
According to the 2076 statistics of Birendranagar municipality, the number of street vendors in the municipality was 700. After three years, their number dropped to 220 street vendors in the municipality. In the period of three years, according to the statistics of the municipality, about 500 sidewalk traders have decreased. Most of the street vendors said that they are involved in street business due to lack of employment opportunities. 80 percent of the respondents said that they do business on the street due to lack of employment opportunities. 11 percent of the respondents said that they are involved in the street business because it requires less capital and 9 percent of the respondents said that it is more profitable. As 80% of the respondents cited lack of employment opportunities as the reason for engaging in street business, it is clear that street business have created a gateway for self-employment.
63% of the respondents said that there is a problem with business premises. 19% of respondents had problems that could be chased away by the municipality. 8% of the respondents had major problems with police abuse and 4% of the respondents had the problem with the low volume of business. 4% of the respondents had all these problems. Most of the street vendors have requested the municipality to manage a suitable place for them, where they can conduct their business. 79% demanded proper space management, while 16% demanded that Birendranagar municipality should create a law for street business management. 5% of the respondents demanded both legislation and location management. Therefore, it seems necessary for the municipality to create a law so that the street vendors can conduct their business safely by managing the space in an orderly manner.
Alternatives to manage street vendor business in Karnali
a) Bringing in the revenue system
By completely displacing the street vendors who are conducting street business in different places of Birendranagar municipality from the sidewalks, there may be ill comments towards the local government from the street vendors as well as other citizens. Let’s look at the aspect of financial management incurred by street business management. There is no additional cost to the municipality to let street businesses run. After the street business enters the revenue system, the revenue that they generate will be enough for the municipality to manage/maintain the sidewalk.
b) Forming a street business management committee under the authority of the city chief or deputy chief
Rather than mobilizing the police for street business management, it is more appropriate to form a committee with street vendors under the leadership of municipal officials. This will also provide a sense of belonging to the street vendors. Looking at the data, it seems that citizens are angry with the police in most of the South Asian countries and they make police intervention a political issue. Therefore, it is better to form a street business management committee under the leadership of the elected representatives of the municipality rather than deploying the police. The street business management committee should be given the following tasks.
❖ Inclusion of street vendors in the committee.
❖ Determining the area for street business and classifying the sidewalks
❖ Recommending the registration and cancellation of street business
❖ Arranging that the street vendors pay a certain fee based on the area
❖ The revenue received from street business will be used to manage waste, build structures that will be convenient for residents
❖ Fixing minimum standards for street business
❖ Making identity card of street vendors mandatory
❖ If there is no identity card, the street vendor can be fined by the committee at any time
3) Classification of pavement
In Birendranagar municipality, like in Bandung city in Indonesia, the street business can be classified into 3 types.
Red Zone (Completely Prohibited Area for street business): Main road from Ganesh Chowk to Mangalgadi Chowk, Buddhapath Road, Birendra Chowk to Erichok Road, Jumla Road and most of the footpaths in Ward No.6.
Yellow Zone (partially suitable area for street business according to time): Road leading from Hatiyachowk to Shikshya Campus (suitable from 10 am to 4 pm), area around Pipal Chautara (suitable from 10 am to 4 pm) includes schools and major administrative buildings and places with heavy traffic at certain times.
Green Zone (Suitable area for street business at any time): Vacant Squares, Empty road behind west wall of Ganthaghar, Hotline road with wide width from opposite District Police Office to Kalinchok, Kuinepani forest area on the road from Ganthaghar to Municipality, Ganesh Chowk, in front of Eye Hospital, from Mangalgadi East side of the road to Latikoili, near Sri Krishna Sanskrit School, in front of Surkhet Valley Water Supply Office etc.
4) Provision of Identity Card
After classifying the street business, the street vendors must be registered in the municipality and ID cards should be arranged for the street vendors in the yellow zone and green zone of the municipality. After the registration, they can be provided with a certificate of business operation or an identity card and from time to time the municipality can check whether the street vendor keeps the identity card with them or not.
5) Structure for passers-by
Allowing business on the sidewalk will have the biggest impact on passers-by. The revenues raised from the street business should be spent on the construction of pedestrian-friendly streets.
(This article is prepared on the basis of the study done by Hriti Foundation on ‘Situation of Street Vendor in Birendranagar: Policy Obstacles and Remedy of the Solutions’. Five articles are published in this series.)