Street vending has been a source of income for many people. There are 19 weekly vendors market in the city of Biratnagar alone which have served as the marketplace for rural traders since ages. In December 2017, Bikalpa conducted a survey involving street vendors and hawkers and published a research paper titled “Formalizing informal markets: Reforming the street vending sector of Biratnagar” which stressed on formalizing such informal sectors by incorporating them in future policy frameworks. The paper identified few policy loopholes like awarding contracts of vending spaces with very little accountability, the erroneous approach towards quantity control rather than quality control and lack of maintaining and upgrading infrastructures for vendors.
Following this, Bikalpa also conducted a stakeholders meeting with an aim to encourage public-private dialogue on the issue in Biratnagar Metropolitan Office. The program was held on 18th of June 2018 and attended by the Mayor, Deputy-Mayor and Chief Executive officer of the Metropolitan office among others. Following a short presentation, the involved stakeholders from the government, civil society and private put forward their views. However, despite the recommendations, in the same event the local government announced that it had already decided to remove the existing vendors and relocate them outside the city.
This move was widely criticized by the civil society and many local newspapers also covered the news. It did bring the issue on the limelight and the topic was hotly debated on social media. Bikalpa published a video expressing street vendors and public opinion on the ban. Later on, the municipal government silently decided against implementing the ban on 27 July.
Hence the local vendors were prevented from being evicted from the vending spaces. However, the issue of proper management is still unaddressed. The government continues to lease out the vending spaces to contractors and have not upgraded even basic amenities for the vendors like access to drinking water or waste disposal area. Subsequent governments in the past have always looked at the street vendors, who are very much part of the economy of Biratnagar, as a form of nuisance and have retorted to designing arbitrary policies to ban them from doing their job.
Many low-income generating people still depend on low cost service provided by these vendors. Majority of households in the city depend on vegetables supplied by these vendors. Banning these vendors will alter the cost of living of the city. Instead of repeatedly trying to remove them, the government needs to frame policies that will integrate them into formal economy as taxpayers and manage them accordingly.