PRIME Institute, in collaboration with Friedrich Naumann Foundation and National Youth Assembly, has held a Street Vendor Assembly in New Sabzi Mandi, Karachi. Purpose of the assembly was to create awareness among street vendors about their vending rights in country laws that exacerbate their economic plight. Mr. Rabistan Khan, Local MPA, was the Chief Guest at the event.
Zia Banday, Executive Director of PRIME, elaborated on the economic aspects of street vending. He mentioned that this low economic segment is much resilient in survival against all odds, which has emerged due to the uneven imposition of the rule of law. It is impacting the earning capacity of the street vendors, who are the victims of state apathy and at the mercy of different mafias. Street vendors are playing a very important role in serving as a distribution channel for taking the goods of the cottage and small businesses to the low and middle-income groups. Mostly street vendors are from low skilled and rural migrant segments. They are a vital cog in an urban economy, which needs to be taken into account for any city planning.
Ahmed Bashir, a Senior Lawyer and a Research Fellow, said that street vendors are heart of Karachi’s economy. And yet, Street vending and provision of services escapes attention despite it being the primary means of combating poverty and of economic survival for many inhabitants of the city. Importance of street vendors as service providers is immense, however, all the laws concerning them are for controlling their economic activity and there are hardly any workable provisions for facilitating them and to improve their working conditions and general betterment.
Rabistan Khan , highlighted the plight of street vendors in Karachi. He did mention the lack of protection to street vendors and their continuous fear of being uprooted from their place of business. He demanded the government to provide them. He has given his full support to initiative for improving the environment for street vending. He mentioned his commitment for introduction for any legislative bill in the provincial assembly in this regards.
Hanan Ali Abbasi, President of National Youth Assembly, has reiterated the engagement of youth in supporting the cause of street vendors for improved rights and enhanced livelihood.
In a question & answer session, various street vendors elaborated on difficulties they face in running their business. They said the absence of civic humanities in the Mandi area despite collection of hefty taxes by market committee.
PRIME Institute did announce constituting of a working group that will comprise of elected representatives, street vendors and civil society to lobby government for improving upon the legal structure for the street vendors.