Special Articles / Bharath Bhushan Mamidi, Radha R. Chada / Community Work : Theories, Experiences & Challenges
Street vending has become an integral part of urban economies and certainly has existed for hundreds of years. Street vending has in more recent times become a matter of concern to civil society and authorities in developing countries, especially in India, which has around ten million street vendors with three million of them street food vendors. This chapter surveys briefly different approaches to organising street vendors in India. A case study of Hyderabad city with around 120,000 vendors and different community organisation initiatives with street vendors offers a glimpse into varied possible approaches of organising street vendors.
The Aarogya project for organising street vendors in Hyderabad is comprised of organising cooperatives of around 2000 street food vendors, offering thrift and credit, branding of street food, capacity building in hygiene, collective action and collaboration with civil society and authorities. The project approach to community work with street food vendors reflects the needs of members and effective approaches when the sector is faced with the possibility of legislation in the near future, reflecting the principles of social work and community development.
Key words: community organisation, cooperative, hawkers, National Policy on Street Vending, street food vendors
Street vending, an integral part of urban economies, has existed for hundreds of years. It is a rapidly growing phenomenon around the world (Bromley, 2000; Winarno & Allain, 1986). Street vending grew substantially in South Asian cities after the financial crisis of 1998 (Bhowmik, 2005). Street vending is an important segment of the informal economy in Asian countries (Kusakabe, 2006) and the size varies across the countries. Although street vendors make a significant contribution to the economy in developing countries, it has been underestimated and neglected (Bhowmik, 2005; Kusakabe, 2006; Winarno & Allain, 1986). Even estimates of the people engaged in street vending are not available in many countries and where it exists it is highly under-reported because street vending is not fully recognised or legalised. The informal sector is so important to the urban economies that ‘it has continued to flourish, even when illegal or state-oppressed’ (FAO, 2007).
Literature on street vending or particular trades within it is scant (Bhowmik, 2005; Kusakabe, 2006). Studies reveal that street vending is critical to the local economy, employment, food security, social mobility and democratisation of social and economic resources in developing countries (Bhowmik, 2005; FAO, 2007). Studies also reveal that problems faced by street vendors in Asian cities are largely similar, owing to its status as informal sector or illegal (FAO, 2007; Kumar & Singh, 2009; Kusakabe, 2006). The street vendors in India, according to the National Policy on Urban Street Vending, 2009 (NPUSV) (Govt of India, 2009), face harassment from public authorities, who often regard street vendors as a nuisance and as encroachers of sidewalks and pavements. Street vending in Asian cities is viewed as a highly precarious and risky occupation and as such the vendors become a vulnerable community, devoid of rights, lacking in state recognition, social security, and access to institutional credit. They are also subject to constant threat of eviction or confiscation of their goods. Street vending is illegal in many parts of Thailand, Cambodia and Mongolia (Kusakabe, 2006). Around three-fourths of street vendors operate in unauthorised sites in Bangkok (Thailand). Bribes to police and market security officials are a sad reality, because street vending lacks recognition in Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Harassment and threats of evictions are regular in Manila (Philippines), although there is a licence system and payment of taxes to the municipal authorities, as there are no areas demarcated yet for street vending. Harassment and rent-seeking by corrupt officials is found in Dhaka (Bangladesh) because street vending is not legal. The risks and threats faced by the street vendors are relatively fewer in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Colombo. In Kuala Lumpur there is a National Policy on Hawkers, 1990 and the Department of Hawkers & Petty Traders was established in 1986 to ensure effective implementation of the policy. While in Singapore all street vendors are licensed, they are partly recognised in Colombo as they pay taxes to municipal authorities (Bhowmik, 2006). Street food vendors in India, Kuala Lumpur, and Bangkok constitute around 30 to 35 per cent of total street vendors (Bhowmik, 2006). In the Asian continent the street food industry is a vast business involving huge amounts of money and millions of people (FAO, 1989). Studies reveal that 33 per cent of the customers in Kolkata purchase street foods each day and Bangkok street food contributes up to 40 per cent of the total energy intake of city residents. Collective total annual sales of street foods in Kolkata is estimated at US $60 million (FAO, 2007), in Bangkok it exceeds US $98 million per year and in Malaysia it is over $2 billion (FAO, 2007). Monthly food expenditure on food prepared at home in Thailand declined from 76 per cent to 50 per cent between 1990 and1998 with increased procurement of food eaten away from home (Nirathron, 2006). A similar trend of a growing share of street food in urban residents’ food choices and changing dietary trends due to increased consumption of street food have been observed in other Asian cities (Draper, 1996; Kusakabe, 2006). Between 6 and 50 per cent of the food budget in Indian urban households is spent on street foods (Seth, 1990; FAO, 1989).
When the street vendors are not organised as a community their vulnerability is greater as their voice is weak to represent and negotiate with the state to ensure their rights to livelihood and share in city space. Owing to the nature of their occupation and pressure to complete the business in a few hours of the day, they are less motivated to devote spare time for meetings or activities of the unions (Singh, 2000) and ‘most of the vendors in Asia are not unionised’ (Bhowmik, 2005, p. 2263). National level federations are seen in Korea and India; the presence of women is very high in Hanoi (Vietnam) and women are more organised than males in Manila. Women vendors in India are small in number compared to males and are least organised. A street vendor, according to the NPUSV, is ‘a person who offers goods or services for sale to the public in a street without having a permanent built-up structure’ (Govt of India, 2009). Street vendors may be stationary in the sense that they occupy space on the pavements or other public/private spaces on a regular basis, or they may be mobile, moving from place to place by carrying their food items on push carts or in baskets on their heads. In this paper, the term ‘street vendor’ or ‘hawker’ includes stationary as well as mobile vendors.
Street Vending in India
Although there are varied estimates of street vendors, they constitute a significant population in India. It is estimated that street vendors in several cities count for about 2 per cent of the national population of India (Govt of India, 2009). Street vendors gained wider acceptance in India from the mid-90s. The Bellagio International Declaration of Street Vendors on November 23, 1995 stressed that the ‘proliferation of poor hawkers and vendors’ in the urban sector, ‘are looked upon as a hindrance to the planned development of cities both by the elite urbanities and the town planners alike’, despite the useful service they render to society (National Association of Street Vendors of India [NASVI], n. d). Greater attention to the problem also reflects growing debate on the right to city and public space by different sections of urban India.
Policy on Street Vending
Taking the lessons drawn from the policy of 2004 as well as the successes achieved in a few cities, the NPUSV 2009 was formulated which clearly recognises street vendors’ role in urban economies and declares the government’s commitment to give them recognition and offering them scope for their mainstreaming. The NPUSV 2009 has recognised street vendors as ‘micro-entrepreneurs’ and an ‘important occupational group of the urban population’ assisting the Government in combating unemployment and poverty necessitating state ‘recognition at all levels of government land support’ (Govt of India, 2009). Important elements of the policy include: legal status through recognition and registration along with social security for the vendors, spatial planning, demarcation of vending zones, provision of infrastructural facilities, social security measures, promotion of health and hygiene, roles and responsibilities of various bodies for participatory planning, etc. The policy also refers to promoting ‘organizations of street vendors e.g. unions / co-operatives / associations and other forms of organizations to facilitate their collective empowerment’ (Govt of India, 2009).
The national policy has been adopted in seven of India’s 28 states since 2005. The Andhra Pradesh Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2010 reflects the spirit of the national policy, but is yet to be passed in the legislative assembly. Several states also initiated measures as part of urban renewal missions in regulation and recognition, even without adopting a policy on street vending. Progress on the national policy is not uniform across the country, despite varied experiments by state governments or municipal authorities locally.
Concerns of the street vendors
Delay in finalising the policy into a law and ongoing acts of eviction of vendors, or registration of some vendors, or supporting vending zones by the local authorities in a few cities make it difficult for vendors to understand what the authorities intend to do and what their role in it is. Negotiation and dialogue with the stakeholders is not seen for want of a consistent policy for the city as a whole and a participatory process to address the challenges in regulation and protection of street vending is not in place. Vendors’ unions and forums at the local level lack information about the growing debate. Licensing of street vending activity, an important component of the proposed new policy initiative, could become an additional tool of exclusion as those who are not licensed are branded ‘illegal’.
The process of demarcation of the urban area into ‘restriction-free vending’ (green vending zone), ‘restricted vending’ (amber vending zone) and ‘no vending’ (red vending zone), according to the NPUSV 2009, has potential for severe conflict with the possibility of some vendors being displaced. Implementation of vending zones is not received well as it lacks informed participation of the street vendors in the process. For instance, declaration of twelve no-vending zones in Bhubaneswar city, which has already implemented 55 vending zones successfully, to the appreciation of several government and civil society agencies and local vendors, is faced with resistance from the vendors’ unions. Vendors’ unions allege the demarcation of no-vending zones is arbitrary because there is no Town Vending Committee formed in Bhubaneswar city (Mohapatra, 2012). The current national bill on street vending suggests at least 40 per cent representation of street vendors in Town Vendors Committees which, properly implemented, gives a fair chance to the vendors to have a say in all regulatory activities like zoning. The vendors are forced to pay bribes to representatives of several government agencies to carry out their business (Bhowmik, 2006; FAO, 2007).
Street Food Vending
Street foods, also referred as the informal food sector (IFS), comprise a wide variety of ready-to-eat food that include meals, beverages, and snacks prepared and/or sold by vendors in streets (FAO, 1989). They are typically sold on the street from ‘pushcarts or baskets or balance poles, or from stalls or shops having fewer than four permanent walls’ (Tinker, 1987). It is critical to the production and use of a variety of food products in the region. Street food, often self-financed by the vendor and self-regulated, is a well-established institution of the food culture of a city (Hoffman & Dittrich, 2009; Kusakabe, 2006; Nischalke, 2011) and a ‘cherished part of local culture’ that is also an attraction for tourists in many cities (FAO, 2007, p. 2). In some cities eating street food is so popular that many street foods form an important share of the city resident’s food requirements. Gisele Yasmeen (1996) referred to the popularity of street food in Thai cities as ‘public eating’. Kolkata in India is also popular for street food with around 130,000 street food-vending stalls (FAO, 2007), and Malaysia has approximately 100,000 vendors (Dawson & Canet, 1991). It has been a fast-growing food distribution system since the 1940s (Bhat & Waghray, 2000).
It is observed that street food vending survives not merely because it is an important source of employment, but also because it provides cost-effective food to the urban population. Available literature indicates the potential of street food for food security, especially of the urban poor, and its contribution to the uniqueness and cultural identity of the cities and livelihoods of a large number of the urban poor (Bergmann & Dittrich, 2012; Rani & Dittrich, 2010).
However, there are concerns. The perishable nature of their preparations forces them to sell the food items at the earliest. Not only are they ignored by the state and denied benefits from welfare programs, but also by labour unions (FAO, 2007). Studies reveal that street food vendors do not form a homogeneous group (Draper, 1996) owing to the specialisation of their food items, location of their operations, size of the unit, and gender of the vendor.
Street food is also subject to stigma and misconceptions about the street foods and the nature of street food trade. Misconceptions about street food are related to stigma, according to Tinker (1988), that the street food trade is a hangover from traditional market activities; is characteristic of and dominated by women; is focused in the main commercial areas of urban centres; street foods are ‘dirty’ and ‘dangerous’ to eat; that only the poor eat them; that they do not make an important contribution to dietary intake. The predominant misconception of street food is that it is eaten by the poor and that it is unhygienic or unsafe compared to mainstream restaurants and eateries. Customers or patrons of street food are not only urban poor but from all walks of life (FAO, 2007; Kusakabe, 2006). Yet, street foods received little official attention and more notice has been paid to the potential dangers arising from the consumption of street foods than to any benefits they might offer. Much of the bias against street foods, however, is unfounded and based more on prejudice than empirical data. (Draper, 1996)
Studies in India also reveal that the stigma of street food as unhygienic has no basis with regard to most of the street food units (Neeraja, 2006). Changing social demography and food culture makes street food no longer synonymous with cheap food (Chada & Mamidi, 2012).
Organising Indian Street Vendors
Research suggests that promotion of certain conditions is critical to the growth and organisation of street vendors. Important elements to foster pro-vendor policy require building a positive image of vendors, a holistic approach engaging all stakeholders: vendors and authorities and civil society; networking among vendors’ organisations at different levels to enable the struggle to acquire a larger perspective and identify spaces for intervention in policy-making; and political will (Kumar, 2012). Studies also suggest the need for capacity building for food safety improvements (Bergmann & Dittrich, 2012; Draper, 1996) in line with ‘local social and cultural contexts’ in bringing the sector towards standardisation (FAO, 2007, p. 28), supportive policy environment linking street food with poverty alleviation strategies (FAO, 2007) and long-term plans for city development. These different and varied areas provide space for different organisations to address one or more of the activities best suited to them, and come together at times for advocacy and extending solidarity with other organisations as part of the larger goal of ensuring protection, social security and infrastructural support to the vendors in participatory governance structure. Street vendors’ needs also shape the types of community organisation. Their needs include security of tenure, recognition, access to infrastructure facilities, capacity building to improve food safety and hygiene, participation in decision making processes affecting them and conflict resolution with local forces or with fellow vendors or other stakeholders with claims to the use of space in the street.
Organising the street food vendors is faced with several challenges owing to the unique nature of their activity. Several factors, revealed by studies highlighting one or more factors in specific contexts across the country, explain the low level of street vendors’ participation in the organisations, viz., individual vendors have little hope of forcing the state to change in their favour, little or no space for participation in the governance of market and use of city space, possible continuity of their operations by keeping local authorities satisfied through bribes or other means, absence of a threat from the state to stop their business, heterogeneity of the street vendors, and immediate concern of the self-employed to recover their investment and make some surplus for the next day. Organising street vendors is a difficult task as they are self-employed (Singh, 2000). They need to make the best of every minute of their time on the street and join groups for collective action only when they are faced with problems of eviction. Short-term collective action is also seen in the face of threats of eviction.
There is constant conflict characterised by distrust and an ongoing tug-of-war between the town authorities and the street vendors wherein town authorities follow anti-encroachment drives and the vendors uphold their right to livelihood and to organise struggles (Kumar, 2012). ‘Fire-fighting’ or stop-gap strategies employing protests and struggles offer temporary relief to the vendors to continue their business (Bhowmik, 2001). Hawkers treated as ‘illegal’ are subject to stigma that perpetuates exploitation and extortion by several agencies. There are multiple government agencies and norms the street vendors have to interact/ comply with in order to continue their operations. Street vending is subject to municipal authorities, police, traffic police, regional development authorities, district administration, etc. (Bhowmik & Saha, 2012; Kumar & Singh, 2009). While the municipal laws regulate the use of pavements, the traffic police regulate the use of roads. Hawkers are often evicted for obstructing free flow of traffic. About 77 per cent of the street food vendors complained of frequent harassment from local traffic police, or municipal authorities, or the food inspectors (Chada & Mamidi, 2012).
Community organisation among street food vendors in Hyderabad has elements of Rothman’s community development model: locality development, social planning, and social action (Rothman & Tropman, 1987). Mobilisation and organisation of street food vendors is broadly characteristic of people of a geographic area (like a slum, market area, city) sharing common interest rooted in street food vending. Strategies and approaches adopted by varied agencies engaged in community organisation with the vendors for identifying the problems, priorities and defining the goals reflect their extent of outreach, both in terms of geographic area and number of vendors. It also reflects the degree of trust enjoyed with regard to the vendors and available resources to accomplish the common goals reflecting the essential process of community organisation outlined by Murray G. Ross (Murray & Ben, 1967). Organisation of vendors includes mobilisation by political groups, as well as civil society and the self-help approach promoted by the government for the purpose of financial inclusion.
Diverse concerns of the street vendors have acquired different forms of organisation in regard to the nature of their mobilisation, interaction with the policy makers (agitation to dialogue), scale of activity (local/regional/national), negotiating strategies with state and non-state forces, cooperation among the street vendors, membership-based groups for regular support, training and capacity building in food safety, etc. Diverse needs and priorities of the particular vendors or of vendors of particular locations or nature of activity also make community organisation efforts attract the attention of policy makers and scholars.
There are broadly four main types of community organisation among street vendors in India (Singh, 2000). These are not exclusive types of community mobilisation in the context of street vendors. The role of different agencies in the Hyderabad context is as follows:
The Aaroygya Case study from Hyderabad
Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh state in India, has large number of street food vendors and enjoys the attention of scholars, policy makers and tourists (Bergmann & Dittrich, 2012; Chada & Mamidi, 2012; Hoffman & Dittrich 2009; Rani & Dittrich, 2010). Hyderabad has about 15,000 to 18,000 vendors along with employees – altogether about 100,000 people – who make their living out of street food eateries. The street food sector in the city has experienced phenomenal growth in the last 15 years and more particularly during last five years. Changing lifestyles, time constraints, cost effectiveness, access and availability explain why many residents of Hyderabad procure street food at least once a day.
Profiling of street foods in Hyderabad has received attention since 1990 (Bharati, 1995; Chada & Mamidi, 2012; Radha, 1994; Seth, 1990). The vendors vary by size of the unit, mobility and activity. The street food vending units represent three categories by the process of food preparation involved, viz., foods prepared in small enterprises and brought to street food stalls for sale, foods prepared at the vendor’s home and brought to the stall, and foods prepared and sold at the stall (Chada & Mamidi, 2012). Of them 77.46 per cent are mobile and 22.54 per cent are on the pavements or roadside stalls (MEPMA, 2009). Street food vendors are engaged in the preparation and sale of ’tiffins’ (snacks), Chinese food, fast-food items, chaat bhandar3, fried meat/fish items, boiled peanuts, chai (tea), etc. Around 150 types of eatables are sold by the hawkers of Hyderabad (Chada & Mamidi, 2012).
The middle and lower class consumer specifically prefers to purchase from them, as well as well-off city residents purchasing many commodities owing to taste and unique culinary preferences. The recent growth of the IT sector and the accompanying outsourcing of business have also opened up the opportunity of vending of readymade foods at odd times, especially during the night and early hours during the day. These vendors carry cooked food on bicycles and motorcycles and serve the customers along the roadside. Some of these food vendors come in converted kiosks and prepare and sell these items.
Street food vending is often a family enterprise, where women help in pre-preparation of the food items like cleaning, cutting, boiling, mixing and grinding, while male members do the final cooking and sell the food items in the streets most often. It is a full-time enterprise for most of the vendors and about 78 per cent of them work for about 15 hours a day, although they sell the food in the street for only five to seven hours (Chada & Mamidi, 2012). Street food is mostly a self-employment activity, 93.04% vendors are owners while the remainder operate street food stalls as employees for others or on rent from others (MEPMA, 2009).
Profile of Street Food Vendors in Case Study
Street food vending addresses food and nutritional security of the city residents as it facilitates physical, economical and social access to a balanced diet characterised by three ‘As’ – Access, Affordability and Availability. Customer intake of nutrients through street foods varies across the city. Freshly cooked street foods are a source of various nutrients along with unique flavours and often essential for maintaining the nutritional status of the customers. Many of the food items are nutritious, providing around 300-800 kcal and reasonable amounts of vitamins, minerals, fat and protein. Customers receive an average of 27 per cent of the calories of a 2000 kcal diet, and 20 per cent of protein from street foods (Radha, 1994).
Since 2008, with several NGOs addressing the issue, greater attention has been paid to different dimensions of street food and organising these vendors.
A training program offered by the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) in food safety for vendors in 1989-90 was much appreciated for a short while and subsequently ignored for want of a clear policy and political will of the government. Eviction of used or second-hand book sellers in Kothi, with little consultation with the hawkers, highlighted conflicts on claims to public spaces. Sustained efforts from the civil society and government have gained momentum since 2008. Sustainable Street Food Plan, an action research intervention of SHP, also contributed to better appreciation of the problem by bringing together government and NGOs into dialogue. Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) and IPM have been issuing identity cards and food safety certification to the vendors respectively (2012-13), and MEPMA initiated designing strategies for promoting livelihoods.
Visibility and momentum have gained significantly with the entry of several NGOs; Dr Reddy’s Foundation organising street food vendors into cooperatives and federations, SHP organising capacity building in food safety through Training of Trainers (TOT) and facilitated dialogue with different stakeholders through action research and consultations, Sannihita, a local NGO in collaboration with SHP, organised women street food vendors, Centre for Environment Education and Centre for Action Research and People’s Development engagement in building visibility of street food. Dr. Reddy’s Foundation, the Corporate Social Responsibility wing of Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd., has piloted the project named ‘Aarogya’ for empowering street food vendors through Micro Entrepreneurship Development Centre (MEDC). The MEDC started working with vendors in 2006, initially in Karimnagar town, and is currently engaged with the 3,000 street food vendors in ten Circles of the GHMC area (’Improving hygiene’, 2011).
The Aarogya project identified street food vendors’ major problems and important needs: recognition from Government bodies, security to run their business, convenient vehicle/pushcart for their business, access to purified drinking water for consumption and food preparation, awareness of food hygiene standards, brand identity, and access to institutional financial and infrastructural facilities for affordable cooking fuel and electricity, and waste disposal (Aarogya, 2008).
The project was initiated to:
Forming Common Interest Groups
Community organisation with street food vendors is based on mobilisation and motivation of the members belonging to common interest groups at different levels through self-help approach. The Aarogya approach has the combined advantage of activity-based common interest and location-specific concerns through collective action of the street food vendors. Aarogya is working in 10 out of 18 Circles of GHMC. There are altogether 3,000 vendors mobilised into the Aarogya project.
Community work with food vendors is based on common interest or shared interest based on similar activity the vendors are engaged in. Vendors are formed into compatible groups of around 20 members known as Common Interest Groups (CIG). Concerns and problems are common to vendors of a particular type, like vegetable or fruit sellers, chaat food sellers or breakfast food etc.
CIGs are the local level groups and unregistered agencies, although they have elected members and meet regularly to discuss problems of the members. A sense of solidarity and regular interaction helps them feel that they belong to a group with shared interests. Some of the CIGs also have savings to provide loans to the members and meet emergencies. CIGs as a collective unit address problems of vulnerability, constraints or harassment from local forces, etc. Orientation and training as well as other forms of support to vendors are effective when they are formed into CIGs. The CIGs are brought together into cooperatives.
Ten CIGs of a Circle are brought under a cooperative known as MACS which has autonomous legal entity to meet the needs of its members including conflict resolution and insurance coverage. MACS are the centre of action where most of the activities benefiting the vendors take place. Forming MACS at Circle level also allows them to address issues specific to the location, as problems of urban policy on land use, threats of evictions, road widening or harassment, extortion and other problems vary across Circles with varying response from authorities. Capacity building is central to social work and community organisation principles as it covers the needs of the client groups, in this context the street vendors. Such a framework that calls for collective action, organises the group from an entitlements perspective, at the same time taking into consideration the group dynamics, food safety and hygiene, organisational development, institution building, leadership training, conflict resolution, advocacy strategies, book-keeping, business plan development, etc.
MACS also engage in savings and loans as well as capacity building of the vendors in food safety and organisational matters. MACS are in a better position to negotiate with formal institutions of credit, owing to the strength of the CIGS and their savings. MACS help the CIGS of vendors overcome the constraints and vulnerabilities common to vendors from the unorganised sector. MACS also engage in business enhancement opportunities, branding, etc. which is critical to the successful operation of their business. Currently in one area, Qutbullapur, MACS have substantial savings and continue to avail loans from the banks on the basis of collateral securities. Members make use of the credit for upgrading their business. Phase I of Training of Trainers (TOT) program on food safety and hygiene, which started in Qutbullapur MACS in November-December 2012, covered 80 street food vendors. The TOT is organised in collaboration with SHP and experts from the College of Home Science and Kasturba College. The trainees received certificates by the IPM, the agency responsible for monitoring food safety norms.
The Federation of MACS at the city level is the apex body for organising the vendors into a collective force to safeguard their interests and address collective concerns. Hyderabad federation, formed in 2012, is not yet a registered body. The Federation, comprising members representing each MACS, has been effective in addressing issues of evictions resulting from the revised Town Plan. The Federation leaders of the MACS stood up for vendors’ rights. The future plans of the MACS and federations include:
The street food system is likely to be affected significantly with the national policy on street vendors, which is planned to become a law in the near future. Street food vendors as a community reflect diversity owing to their activity or nature of business on one hand and the issues they are confronted with owing to their legal status on the other. Community organisation among street vendors provides learnings for effective blending of multiple approaches towards organising them for policy advocacy and building structures for self-help. A survey of strategies adopted by several agencies engaged in organising street vendors suggests that immediate needs and long-term goals need to be harmonised to build sustainable institutions of self-help for the community. Situations of the changing policy environment require pragmatic blending, linking local struggles with macro protests for policy change and addressing specific local needs of the members to sustain their engagement in processes for changes in the long term.
Current approaches of organising street vendors in Hyderabad as well as in wider India, with the policy waiting to be translated into legislation, reveal interesting blending of unionisation, non-violent protest, struggle and cooperatives for self-help in influencing state policy in favour of the street vendors. Mapping the experiences of community organisation of street vendors across the country reveals pragmatic approaches to meeting the challenge of organising street food vendors to enjoy their entitlements through participatory processes and involving the vendors in designing and implementing the national policy that aims at harmonising the interests of the vendors and urban population needs in a sustainable manner. The street food sector, an essential component for urban food security and cultural identity, demands greater attention to understand how the vendors operate as a community. Community mobilisation in the street food sector also needs to press for the policy and norms of regulation to be in harmony with local social and cultural contexts and social security as well as infrastructural support required by the sector.
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