Forced to pack up, street vendors struggle to make ends meet

Kathmandu, March 18

“We run as soon as we hear the police coming from a distance. If we don’t, they  throw all our goods or take them away,” says Gita Basnet, a vendor who sells socks on the pavement near Lagankhel bus stop.

Basnet’s daily ‘hide-and-seek’ game with the police, who clear up the pavements across the valley, is a matter of life and death for her. “I feel like a thief when I run away from the police. I fear they will take my goods away and they are my only source of income to feed my family,” says the distressed vendor.

Many street vendors face this tug-of-war struggle as they fear the police will fine them heavily and that they will be left with nothing.

“If we can’t sell our goods, we can’t feed our family. The police are forcing us to pack up and go, but where can we go? The government has not given us space in the markets,” complains Kaji Magar, a vendor who sells dolls on sky bridges across Kathmandu. Magar adds he asks customers to pick the dolls fast if he hears the police coming.

If caught by the police, the goods will not be returned, explains Magar. However, the police say they will not soften their ways to crackdown on street vendors on the pavement because they are illegal. “No one has the right to do business on pavements. They are strictly meant for walking, not for selling products,” said Gyanendra Karki, spokesperson of Kathmandu Metropolitan City, adding that “to control accidents on streets, we need to control street vending.”

“We try to clear all the street vendors from pavements, but they keep returning,” the police said. According to the police, vendors are fined 25 percent of their products and rest of their goods are returned to them with a warning.

“If they want to sell products, they can rent a shop. But cannot set shop on the pavements under any circumstance. If they does so, we are compelled to punish them as per the law,” said Karki.