street vendor management | micro businesses | informal economy | governance
It is the eighth day for Social Activist Iih standing outside the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) Office at the Rastriya Sabha Griha in Pradarshani Marga. He is protesting against the KMC’s drive to remove street businesses, illegal confiscation of their goods and them being manhandled by the KMC Police.
In a chat with the_farsight at the ground, Iih said, “I am standing here to remind Mayor [Balendra Shah] the promises he made for street business management during his election campaigns.”
He demands systematic management of street businesses, on which a good number of people depend for their livelihood, through policy rather than imposing bans. As per the Nepal Street Vendor Trade Union (NSVTU) estimates, such businesses provide for families of about 30,000 individuals in the Kathmandu Valley, including half the number in the Kathmandu district alone.
Issuing a notice on January 10, the KMC banned conducting any form of business in the footpaths and public spaces. The City had warned in the notice that goods related to such businesses would be seized and the offenders would be subject to punishment under the Local Governance Act, 2017 and Solid Waste Management Act, 2011.
However, social activists say that none of the existing laws allow municipal offices to confiscate the private property of street vendors for obstructing the roads, let alone penalising them.
Iih is also demanding that the confiscated goods be returned to their owners.
Meanwhile, what first started as a 77-hour-long stand outside the KMC Office starting September 19 at 1 PM, extended to 123 hours on September 22 and 199 hours on September 25, as KMC Mayor Balendra Shah did not show up for dialogue.
The peaceful protest that earlier started with a few individuals is now garnering attention and is followed by people including street vendors joining at the site.
Yesterday, however, a row broke out between Iih and Shah on social media which quickly became a sensation. Writing on his social media, Shah claimed that he waited for the protesting side to show up for dialogue, a message he had conveyed through his secretariat official. Replying to the post, Iih claimed that he told the official that he needed time to gather his team of experts, but got a disrespectful reply.
In a recent development, Deputy Mayor Sunita Dangol met Iih on September 26 morning and affirmed the demands. Reportedly, the teams of Iih and the KMC have now sat for talks.
Iih presents three principal demands — i) a policy guaranteeing respectable and dignified treatment of street businesses and arrangements for alternative time, spaces, and nominal fees; ii) an end to aggressive and unlawful metro policing; iii) compassionate, accountable, and proactive governance that will create a liveable Kathmandu for all residents and stakeholders.
Iih’s feet have swollen up and nose skin is peeling out. Upon being asked why he would stand here or whether he felt pain, he said the people who depended on street business were forced to cut down on their daily food, some were forced to go to India and others to Gulf countries, adding: “They are leaving their family behind. My pain is nothing against their pain of separation from their family.”
Following are some pictures from the ground clicked by the_farsight’s Vivek Baranwal.
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