The police began forceful clearance of footpath vendors plying their trade in and around Kalanki from Wednesday. The crackdown is being seen as part of Home Minister Bamdev Gautam’s initiative to ‘clean up’ Kathmandu that started with the decree to dance bars and cabin restaurants to shut shop by 11 pm. The plan is to uproot all footpath vendors from Kalanki, Narayan Gopal Chowk and areas around Tundikhel which in turn will ease frequent traffic jams and pedestrian movement. According to a survey, there are around 6,600 street vendors dotting the sidewalks of Kathmandu and Lalitpur districts.
Encroaching on sidewalks for any purpose is illegal. Yet it was lack of initiative of previous governments to manage street vendors that contributed to their swelling numbers. During the period of insurgency, with no other option to make their ends meet, many people who had entered the Valley found roadside space an inexpensive way of plying their trade. Any initiative to protect the right of pedestrians is welcome, but, a democratic government should also take care of basic rights of any Nepali. Perhaps the government still could provide alternate venues for uprooted vendors. This is a tricky business. Heavy-handedness might bring the desired result but endanger the livelihoods of thousands of people.