GUWAHATI, Nov 14 - Vending is one of the primary means of livelihood for the economically backward section of society and despite the fact that working conditions are harsh and uncertain and the urban environment has been hostile, the number of people engaged in it has been growing.
Even the presence of women in vending has been increasing and according to the Society for Social Transformation and Environment Protection, women from rural areas are regularly commuting to the capital city with vegetables and locally available produce.
However, lack of protection is one major challenge that these woman vendors face. The working conditions become more vulnerable in the absence of basic facilities like drinking water, toilets and cr�ches for their children.
�Guwahati could have a population of 45,000 street vendors selling commodities as diverse as vegetables, incense sticks, spices, household commodities, clothes, confectionaries, fish, livestock, grains, dairy products etc. There are also services which are provided by cobblers, locksmiths and mechanics repairing anything from gas stoves and pressure cookers to umbrellas. These are all vital services to the city even as they provide employment and keep the economy of the city going,� said a functionary of the society, adding that the woman vendors mostly trade in vegetables and locally available fruits.
Most of the woman vendors are mobile vendors and sell their products at street corners, pavements and the periphery of the markets because they feel that this is a safer way to ward off any kind of harassment.
�As lack of protection is a major challenge for the woman vendors, they are reluctant to sit at a fixed spot because most of the other vendors are males,� said the functionary, informing that to meet this challenge woman vendors have come together and formed a group.
Most of the woman vendors belong to indigenous communities like Garo, Khasi, Bodo, Rabha, Koch, Karbi etc., and they live in villages located in the peripheries of the city.
�Lack of institutional credit is also a problem as they have to borrow from money lenders at high rates of interest,� said the functionary.