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Imphal vendors resist eviction

A woman sells winter products at a market in Imphal. Picture by UB Photos

Imphal, Dec. 4: Frequently harassed and chased, women street vendors of Imphal city today vowed to resist attempts by the government to evict them from their work place.

A 100-odd street vendors today gathered at the Manipur Press Club here to discuss their problems, future and strategy for a rightful place to sell their wares.

Representatives of eight NGOs working for human rights took part in the discussion, which was a part of the programme for international fortnight observation for protesting crimes against women, observed jointly by various NGOs.

According to a survey conducted by Women’s Action for Development, an Imphal-based NGO, fighting for street vendors’ rights, there are about 300 street vendors around Imphal city’s three women market complexes, run only by women.

The vendors said the police and village defence force, set up to assist the police, frequently evicted street vendors, damaged their goods — mostly vegetables and fish — chased and sometimes also assaulted them.

“The police also took money from the street vendors. Harassing street women vendors is a crime against women,” Sobita Mangsatabam, secretary of Women’s Action for Development, said.

“Enough is enough. We should not pay the police or the village defence force any more. We should resist any attempt to evict us until we are given a rightful vending place,” M. Bina Devi, an Imphal street vendor from Thoubal district, said.

The passing of the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2013, by the Lok Sabha in September emboldened the street vendors in their struggle for survival.

The women vendors belong to poorest of the poor families and come from both the valley and hills.

“My husband died long ago. I have two sons, who are differently-abled. I am the only bread earner. I am struggling to get two square meals a day for my family by selling chillies in the city. If I am not allowed to vend on the streets how can I survive?” Nganbi Devi, 65, from Khangabok of Thoubal district, asked.

Many of the street vendors are either widows or divorced with children. Their ages range from early 20s to 80s.

Social scientist Dhanabir Laishram and lawyer L. Sevananda educated the street vendors on their rights.

“Take a united and unwavering stand. It is the government’s bounden duty to give you a vending place. Don’t pay the police or any other person for street vending,” Laishram told the vendors.

Mangsatabam said the organisations, who attended today’s programme would appeal to the government to immediately allot a space to street vendors.

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