The decision taken by the Chandigarh administration after succumbing to the repeated demands made by the traders association of sector 17, to chuck out street vendors has left over a 1,000 people stranded with no other source of income as harsh winters dawn over north India.
According to a survey done by the Municipal corporation a year ago, there are over 1,098 street vendors prying in the plaza catering to the needs of tourists and locals all at once. These hawkers as the per the UT administration have been divided into three categories of which the plaza of sector 17 is filled with. These include mobile vendors, Essential vendors and non essential vendors. While the mobile vendors are the one constantly on the move selling fancy products or edibles on the go, essential vendors include tea stalls, bicycle repairman or cobblers. Non essential vendors are the one that sell food material or clothes or fancy decorative material on the streets and this category dominates sector 17.
Jagdish one of the many hawkers sits by his stall of books every day from early morning till late nights, he has been worried about his future and claims to be looking for other places to sell his books. Selling everything from Mario Puzo and Paulo Coelho to Durjoy Dutta Jagdish says, "There is hardly any place else I can earn something close to what I earn here. People visiting Sector 17 are often students from nearby Panjab University or any other college and are interested in buying books and some know for a fact that sellers like me will be here offering book for such a low price if I get shifted to sector 19 the chances of making good sales drops."
The architecture department has decided to relocate the street vendors to sectors nearby but what troubles these vendors the most is the fact that no other sector offers the landscape of sector 17. If the vendors are shifted to the nearby sector 16, which comparatively has a smaller market there will be no proper place to set up camp and sell. Similarly sector 22 another big market place in Chandigarh but is a crowded den due to the unorganised Shastri Market.
Mayor Asha Jaswal has termed the process of rehabilitating vendors as "not practical", but there is little that the Municipal councillors are doing to ease the life of these vendors on the street. In a meeting chaired by the UT home secretary Anurag Aggarwal, the decision to make sector 17 a no Vending zone was finalised on November 3, 2017.
The traders association has been taking out protests against vendors who according to them have an unfair advantage over the big stores. Jagjit Singh Sodhi, Chairman Traders association sector 17 says, "they do not pay income tax or GST and have pirated products line up right out side our stores this is a mammoth issue." Although the traders argue that the Street vendors are polluting the plaza and that is their main concern but clearly damage to business is not far behind.
Gurjot Sandhu a shop owner in the plaza explains the Street vendors issue something like this, "The city was not planned for them to be settling and selling inside the main market yet our ancestors allowed them in some 30 odd years ago because they were need in small numbers back then now they are running the place over not too long ago a group of street vendors assaulted a Haryana Civil services officers for he did not comply with their prices. They are hounding people and the ones selling eatables are throwing away waste anywhere how can we overlook something of that sort."
Although the street vendors are now a part of the sector 17 and many residents are not willing to see them go. Avkaran Dhillon a student of Panjab University has been living in Chandigarh for the past decade now, he says that the Hawkers add to the atmosphere of sector 17. "I won't disagree that they don't pollute the plaza but moving them out is not an option we can instead teach them the necessary values and put the police in-charge to challan them when found disobeying orders. Some can be shifted to other sectors but not all it will seem so dull in sector 17 if all the vendors are forced out", he adds.
Sector 1-6 of Chandigarh are already no vending zones except for essential vendors and with sector 17 in line the poor street vendors who on an average make Rs. 500 or less on a good day have no where else to go. Street vending does add to the informal economy helping many households keep food on the table everyday but many may argue to their contribution to the world of piracy. In the midst of all this the sector 17 is losing an integral parts of its history as the sector sees reduction footfall is this is the end of sector 17, once the heart of Chandigarh?