GUWAHATI, June 21 � If life is an endless struggle for some people just to keep the kitchen stove burning, then Giribala Kalita of Jatiya here is such a name. And if life requires one to be strong and determined no matter the frequent upheavals, then Jamini Devi of Rajiv Nagar happens to be one such example.
Not one to give up easily at the slightest twist of life, these indigenous women like Giribala, Jamini and others have been running their families by selling flowers near the Ganesh Mandir, Ganeshguri for decades.
Women form a significant segment of street vendors in the country as circumstances have been compelling them to move out of the safety of their homes on to the streets to earn a livelihood. In the capital city, a sizeable section of indigenous women has been doing the vending business on the streets, but under constant stress.
Though there is a national policy for the protection of livelihood rights of the urban street vendors, matters have not yet improved for the vendors here.
A member of the non-government organization Society for Social Transformation and Environment Protection that is working for securing the rights of the street vendors said that the provisions of the national policy are yet to be taken seriously by the official machinery.
�I have been selling flowers near the Ganesh Mandir, Ganeshguri for more than 25 years. I have seen the gradual renovation of the temple. The place has changed drastically over the years. What has remained constant is the stress in our lives,� said Giribala. She mentioned that this stress is nothing but fear of eviction. The national policy says that there should not be forceful eviction of vendors. But Giribala does not know about this policy and neither the men in khaki who now and then evict her.
�I was once been sent to jail because I had fought back when a homeguard tried to evict me,� recollected Giribala. She lives all alone and her average sale daily is Rs 150 to 250. When she succeeds in earning Rs 250 on a day, she celebrates because she then makes a profit of Rs 100 and is able to add an extra vegetable dish to her simple dinner.
�Sometimes I don�t make any profit and on that day I am saved the trouble of cooking,� she said without any trace of emotion in her voice. Forgoing a meal is not uncommon in her life.
On the other hand, Jamini whose husband is a daily wage earner, is a mother of four children. She too has been a flower vendor for more than 15 years now. Venting her irritation on the police and the temple committee, Jamini said that these people keep evicting or threatening them. �We have to run our families. But these people do not understand,� she said.
Since long, the Society for Social Transformation and Environment Protection has been demanding of the government to address the grievances of the street vendors as per the national policy. It has also organized the vendors into an association to voice their rights.
�It is time the government woke up to the issue of street vendors because many of them are indigenous men and women,� said the member of the society.