Street Vending Revisited

Tanzina Choudhury
Posted April 16, 2011 from Bangladesh

Bangladesh is one of the countries with many informal activities. Informal activities as a contributor to the economic welfare of the society was first observed during early 1970s. Since then the term informal sector or informal economy was introduced. The informal sector absorbs a large portion of non-agricultural employment; thus it provides solution for unemployment problems.

As a result of high-rate of migration, informal activities in Dhaka city have exploded, with a staggering population struggling to survive in extremely insecure conditions. One common informal activity of the city is street vending where the actors are termed as hawkers. The hawkers are considered illegal for they use public spaces that are originally not intended for trading activities. For their illegal status, the hawkers tend to be the most vulnerable group exposed to constant threat and extortion by law enforcers and local musclemen.

The traffic-jams are great events for the hawkers to stop in. Snacks and drinks come straight to the customers while they sit in the comfort of the car. At supermarkets, there are multiple hawkers, so cluttered and compressed that entry to stores is almost impossible without walking over them. Hawkers are sometimes convenient, sometimes nuisance but not to be ignored. For the urban poor, they bring commodities and services at affordable prices. They, being the retail-outlets of small manufacturers and rural producers, have a significant role in the saturation of the economy. By way of mobilizing loads of commodities, they strengthen the supply chains reflecting to market saturation, price curbing and carbon saving.

Street vending is an integral part of the global urban economy, unusual about Bangladesh is that the activity is unregulated and undisciplined. Except several groups of early entrants, who with brand identity of Hawker Market have transited into formal business, the vast majority of hawkers are in desperate need of formal protection. The hawkers can easily be allotted increasing number of open spaces just the way allocation for public offices, schools and mosques are made. They should be regulated to apply hygienic methods like selling of fish from insulated ice-carts and serving food from fly-proof boxes. Fish and vegetable sellers can be spotted patiently waiting in commercial areas, from morning to sell merchandize when the offices close. Therefore, assigning particular days of the week and hours of the day to specific vendors may reduce multiple vending and establish an orderly business format. Organizing the street vendors and facilitating them to formal trade is indispensable unless which, in the next transition, the city streets shall not remain worthy to ply.

--- Tanzina Ahmed Choudhury ---

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