ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Plight of Street Vendors in India

Failure of Urban Governance and Development

Street vendors constitute the most significant and deprived segment of the country’s unorganised sector. Among vendors, the condition of Dalit, women, and child vendors is the most horrific, depressed, and necessitous. Other than being a source of self-employment for the poor, vending is vital to provide convenient, affordable services to the urban populace. It is ironic that the current laws, schemes, and policies are awfully unsympathetic, hostile, and unreceptive towards the ordeals of this section of the urban population. This paper attempts to explore and expose the vulnerability, fragility, and marginalisation of this section under faulty urban governance and development practices by tracking their lives, pains, and plight as vendors.


Vending and hawking has been an integral part of Indian trade and shopping since ancient times. In other words, street vendors, or hawkers as they are widely known, have been around for as long as civilisation. There has been no city—modern or ancient—without traders vending their wares informally in public spaces. Indian cities are no exception, as testified by the tradition of natural markets or mandis (Sampath 2015). Without vendors, it is quite challenging and impossible to experience the dynamicity of cities. Owing to their centrality in cities, several descriptive terms have been attached to them, for example, in the English language they have been referred to as hawkers, street sellers, travelling merchants, peddlers, street vendors, itinerant traders, vag­rants, street criers, ambulant traders, the trading proletariat, costermongers, petty chapmen, packmen, pack carriers, and hucksters. This diversity of terms connotes the abundance of denotation, activity and experience, and a combination of diff­erent trades and specialisation, which makes it challen­ging to place vending under any specific category. They have often been proven to be pioneers of expansion, opening up markets in unknown goods and services, as well as in poorly serviced areas (Indorewala 2017).

Street Vending in India: An Overview

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Updated On : 13th Nov, 2021
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