As Bengaluru and other districts of Karnataka went on yet another lockdown as a measure to contain the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic in the city, livelihoods of lakhs of people stand deeply affected yet again. Street vendors as a community are one such community who will have to bear the first and most brunt of such measures initiated by the state.
To protest against the state negligence, street Vendors today undertook a One Day Hunger Strike with three major demands.
Karnataka Progressive Street Vendors’ Association (KPBVS) and Forum of Bengaluru District Street Vendor’s Associations (BJBVSO) have demanded that the Street Vendors must be:
- Provided with an income compensation of Rs. 15000 for the last three months;
- Be allowed to vend their products and services while adhering to the distancing norms; and
- That the announcement made by PM Narendra Modi under PM Street Vendors’ Atmanirbhar Nidhi (PM-SVANidhi) for Street Vendors be treated as a grant instead of viewing it as a loan.
Their livelihoods were devastated as PM Narendra Modi announced the nation-wide lockdown with no time for anyone to be prepared for the same. The livelihoods of millions were under immense pressure and had just started to recover to normalcy when the state government has again called off the functioning of the city for yet another week between 14th July to early hours of 22nd July.
3/4Vendors in Yeshwantpur Market protest against the government's failure to protect those who form the backbone of the Indian Economy pic.twitter.com/mriUq5969t
— AICCTU Karnataka (@aicctukar) July 18, 2020
This has left the street vendor community who depend on the daily earnings to sustain their livelihoods with immense financial stress with no money to pay for food, rents including that of house and their carts while many of them have been caught up in the high-interest debt trap.
They have not just questioned as to how would the government expect them to pay back the loan with no idea as to when would the economy roll back to ‘normalcy’ even after the lockdown and when their livelihoods had been completely devastated for the last three months. The street vendors also complained that the government has turned a blind eye towards the vendors who do not possess Street Vendors’ ID cards.
The fact that 1.54 lakh street vendors from across the country have applied for the loan under PM-SVANidhi program is an indicator of the deep financial crisis that has hit them. It must also be acknowledged that many of them might not be able to pay back these loans provided that Corona pandemic is expected to continue at least till the end of the year and the same will have a long-lasting adverse impact on the economy. Hence, the need of the hour is that the government takes cognizance of the issue and addresses the demand put forth by the street vendors.