Unveiling Layers of Struggle: Caste, Gender, and Precarity Among Indian Street Vendors


The article sheds light on the challenges faced by street vendors in India. Street vendors constitute the most significant and deprived segment of the country’s unorganised sector. The authors argue that street vending is not only a source of self-employment for the poor but also vital to provide convenient, affordable services to the urban populace. The article explores the vulnerability, fragility, and marginalisation of street vendors under faulty urban governance and development practices by tracking their lives, pains, and plight as vendors. The authors argue that the current laws, schemes, and policies are awfully unsympathetic, hostile, and unreceptive towards the ordeals of this section of the urban population. The article provides examples of the challenges faced by street vendors, including harassment by police and other authorities, extortion by local goons, and lack of access to credit and 318 | 64th Labour Economics Conference financial assistance. The authors also highlight the specific challenges faced by Dalits, women, and child vendors, who are the most vulnerable and deprived. The article discusses the history of street vending in India and the legal framework governing it. The authors argue that the current laws and policies are inadequate and fail to address the needs of street vendors. They suggest that a comprehensive national policy for street vendors is needed, which recognises street vending as a legitimate occupation and provides access to credit and financial assistance to street vendors. The authors conducted a case study in Ghaziabad district, Uttar Pradesh, to explore street vendor problems on the basis of caste, age, and gender. The study surveyed around 600 street vendors in weekly markets in Ghaziabad, primarily in Indirapuram, Vasundhara, and Vaishali for over three months. The study primarily concerns the issues and challenges faced by street vendors in general, and women, child, and Dalit vendors, in particular. The study found that many street vendors initially refused to answer questions owing to a fear of harassment by the local police and goons who extort money from them on a daily basis. The study also found that many street vendors are not aware of government rules and legislations regarding street vendor and hawker’s rights.