Srinagar: Hundreds of vendors in Srinagar city still await the completion of the promised “smart vending zone” under the smart city project, even as they face repeated humiliation at the hands of the authorities during “anti-encroachment” drives.
It has been more than 3 years since the official process began to rehabilitate street vendors of Srinagar in designated zones, which were touted as “smart vending zones” by the administration.
However, there has been no headway in providing these zones to the street vendors. The old Khalsa School site in Magarmal Bagh area of Srinagar was one of the areas chosen for setting up the smart vending zones, and there was even some work carried out in the area.
“But the issue is that they have erected 150 vending points, while we are more than 270 of us who conduct business between Jahangir Chowk and Amira Kadal area of the city,” a vendor told Kashmir Reader.
He said that the facility was not enough for all of them and they won’t leave some among them behind, while others move in. “Rehabilitation has to be complete. They ask us to adjust, but how can we? Is there any logic to that?” the vendor said.
Similar issues are being faced by street vendors at Batamaloo, LD Hospital, and other areas of the city. “In the LD area, there are 250 vendors but the space being provided by the administration can accommodate only 70 vendors. Where will the others go?” asked Nasir Sofi, President of the Street Vendors Coordination Committee.
He said that there are more than 6,000 street vendors in Srinagar city and each one has to be rehabilitated if they want to decongest the city. “There is a court ruling regarding that. They cannot just displace us without providing us an alternate space to operate from,” Sofi told Kashmir Reader.
A court ruling or not, the vendors continue to face humiliation on a daily basis from high-handed employees of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC). Videos of the high-handedness have often gone viral in Kashmir, evoking sharp criticism from the general public.
‘Dignity too much to ask in smart Srinagar’
“We do not want to be humiliated like this for coming out to earn a livelihood. But that seems to be too much to ask for in smart Srinagar,” a vendor told Kashmir Reader. “We would have loved to have a dignified space where we can conduct our business in peace, but the administration is indecisive and comes up with half measures.”
This reporter tried talking to the Commissioner of the SMC, Athar Amir Khan, but he did not attend repeated calls made to his mobile number.