Updated: October 17, 2021 8:30:45 pm
For Shakuntala (55), a mehendi designer who has been working outside Hanuman Mandir at Connaught Place for 19 years, Karwa Chauth is the most lucrative time of the year. But she has been told by officials that she and other mehendi designers will not be allowed to work from Sunday onwards.
Following a Delhi High Court order to remove all illegal encroachments at Connaught Place, officials of the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) and the Delhi Police carried out a drive to remove illegal hawkers in the market on Wednesday.
Shakuntala claimed that she and 16 others were allowed to set up their stall outside the Mandir in 1991. However, they never got official licenses.
Ever since the lockdown, Shakuntala says that her business has been adversely affected. She used to stay in Janakpuri earlier, but she now stays with her children in Gurgaon to save the amount spent on rent. She spends around Rs 150 a day to travel and does not make a profit on most days. It is only during the festive season that her earnings go up to Rs 4,000 a day. She saves up that amount and stretches it over the next year.
For Mathura Bai (46), it is not only a matter of her livelihood. Discriminated because of her disability, she said that with “rozgaar (employment)”, people refer to her as Mathura bai, while without it, they call her derogatory names. She was among 20 vendors in front of Palika Bazaar who were evicted on Thursday. She sells clothes in front of Gate 4 of Palika Bazaar. She added that times have been difficult since the lockdown, and things were only just starting to look up. She said her husband left years ago, and she has been running her family ever since.
Arbind Singh, the national coordinator of the National Association of Street Vendors of India, said this is a problem common to many markets.
He highlighted Chapter 3 of the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 which states, “No street vendor shall be evicted or, as the case may be, relocated till the survey specified under sub-section (1) has been completed and the certificate of vending is issued to all street vendors.” He said that the livelihood of many such vendors, who are from low-income groups, is at stake.
Atul Bhargava, president of the New Delhi Traders Association (NDTA) which filed the petition, said, “I am not against anyone’s livelihood. Last we counted, there were around 250 vendors, of whom around 65 were legal. The corridors are made for walking, and a huge part gets taken up by illegal vendors. We do not mind if they are given an alternate place to set up their stalls.”
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