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Street Vendors And The Law

By the year 2050, the global urban population is projected to grow by at least 2.5 billion people, Informal practices play a significant role in the functioning of cities, with informal street vending emerging as one of the most prevalent forms of informal urban activity, especially in regions commonly referred to as the global South. Informal street vending constitutes a vital segment of the workforce.

Over the past decade, there has been a noticeable surge of interest in studying the dynamics of informal street vending. This surge is driven by the imperative to address a range of issues, including economic, social, and political inequalities.

Recognizing informal street vending as one of the most widespread forms of informality is also essential in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals. It has direct relevance to various, such as poverty reduction, gender equality and the empowerment of women, economic prosperity, the reduction of social, political, and economic disparities, and the creation of inclusive and resilient cities.

Analysis - Thematic
A substantial body of literature is emerging, delving into a spectrum of crucial inquiries related to gender and its influence on the daily lives and survival strategies of street vendors. This research examines topics such as the politics of gender and the validation of claims to public space, prevailing gender norms, and the mobility and vending capabilities of women.

It underscores the significance of acknowledging the diverse profiles of street vendors, including their gender composition. This recognition is essential to ensure that policy measures aimed at promoting gender inclusion, food safety, the allocation of vending locations, and taxation are suitably refined to genuinely address the needs and realities of street vendors.

A complex issue arises in the context of how cultural gender norms impact women's ability to engage in street vending within public spaces. Research in Thailand has presented empirical evidence indicating that the migration and involvement of female vendors from ethnic minority backgrounds in the souvenir trade and tourism sector have led to a transformation of cultural gender norms and a reduction in gender-based inequality.

This, in turn, has elevated their economic standing as the primary providers for their households. Despite their income-generating activities in the informal economy, female workers may face challenges in reconciling the demands of both breastfeeding and street vending as they strive to address financial pressures.

This section delves into the concept of categorization, specifically concerning studies that examine various criteria or characteristics when classifying different types of informal street vending.

These criteria may include factors such as mobility within public spaces, the proximity of vending activities to the public-private boundary, and the distinction between legitimacy and illegitimacy in street vending. In their research on the dynamics of street vending at a global scale, Kamalipour and Peimani propose an approach to categorizing street vending based on two primary factors:
  1. The extent of mobility, indicating how freely street vendors can operate within public spaces, and the proximity to the public-private interface, which focuses on the positioning of street vendors about the edges of public spaces. The extent to which informal street vending is firmly rooted in public space has also been a central consideration in the development of typologies in other studies.
  2. The categorization described outlines four primary types of street vending, which encompass individuals who sell food in traditional marketplaces, street vendors operating in various public spaces, vendors utilizing fixed structures located in informal settlements (such as tuck shops), and mobile vendors who sell food directly to customers by going door-to-door.

Additionally, Charman and Govender introduce a classification that encompasses three types of permanent vending structures, including stores converted from used shipping containers, small kiosks, and shops that encroach onto public space with forecourts. They also consider non-permanent structures, which range from businesses with limited or no infrastructure to semi-mobile or entirely mobile vending units.

Numerous studies have explored the typology of informal street vendors from various angles, focusing on factors such as their locations or settings, use of technology, nationality, types of goods or services sold, and the nature of their activities.

Here are some of the key classifications provided by these studies (about typology/types):

  1. Suryanto et al. categorize street vendors based on the commodities they sell, classifying them into three categories: food, goods, and services.
  2. Another study categorizes stationary street food vendors based on four dominant food types: fufu, check-check, tuo zaafi, and waakye.
  3. Ghatak and Chatterjee categorize popular ethnic Chinese street foods, considering aspects such as the images, ingredients, nature of food, and post-cooking procedures.
  4. Mart�nez and Rivera-Acevedo collect observational data regarding the type of products offered, the type of stall (mobile or fixed), and the number of people working at each stall.
  5. Raina et al. document the presence of five types of water vendors, including "commercial water source vendors," "tanker trunk vendors," "bottled water vendors," "mobile distributing vendors," and "retail outlets."
  6. Amankwaa categorizes women and men's sachet water vendors into three work types: seekers, finders, and settlers.
  7. Swai identifies typo-analytical categories (street-junction typologies) based on the location of food-vending activities and explores the relationships between these locations and how activities, such as the number of customers and sales volume, are carried out.
  8. Malasan categorizes street vendors into two groups: "conventional" and a "new generation of middle-class" vendors, based on their adoption of new technology and utilization of social networks to sustain their livelihoods and express their rights in urban spaces.

These diverse typologies provide valuable insights into the multifaceted world of informal street vending. Less common typologies of street vendors take into account factors like licensing, employment status, and post-eviction actions for asserting their right to public space.

These categorizations raise important questions about how the licensing of street vendors influences the outcomes and reactions to state repression and eviction efforts. Understanding these dynamics can shed light on the complex interactions between informal street vending and regulatory measures.

The critical questions regarding informal street vending and public space design such as contradicting views on the impacts of informal street vendors on the image of an "ordered" city, spatial "recovery" policies, politics of exclusion in public spaces, and failure to identify the vendors' diverse racial makeup, zoning division and marginalization of street vendors have become an important area of debate about forms of informal street vending.

Drawing on evidence from a broad range of cities in the global South, Kamalipour and Peimani argue that authorities and the elite often consider informal street vending harmful to the image of an "ordered" city.

This situation also leads to the increased occupation of urban space by actors who own capital. According to Recio et al, the patterns of land use officially sanctioned by the state, combined with the norms and practices initiated by street vendors in transportation hubs in many cities in the global South (e.g., Baclaran in Metro Manila), can jointly generate new dynamics and relationships. These, in turn, have the potential to enhance the functional diversity within the urban environment.

The significance of exploring the spatial dynamics of informal street vending, among other related issues, has become apparent in recent literature, which aims to address several key questions.

  1. How does an understanding of the relational economy contribute to the exploration of various aspects of the spatial logic of informal street vending?
  2. What is the influence of constructing memorial markers on the significance of street vending and its role in (re)shaping urban spaces?
  3. In what ways does an understanding of the spatial aspects of street vending provide insights into the strategies used by vendors to sustain and thrive in different cities?

By adopting "the relational economy of informality" as their theoretical framework, Charman and Govender argue that the outcomes of economic development in developing cities, such as Johannesburg, involve spatial processes that affect the distribution and form of various informal business activities.

These processes also shape the interactions between street vendors and a diverse range of other actors, including pedestrians, shopkeepers, homeowners, and informal taxi operators. This framework helps elucidate the complex dynamics of informal street vending in urban settings.

Many studies have conducted empirical research into the intricacies of informal street vending, especially concerning the individual and collective agency of street vendors. (About a collective agency), This agency often manifests through acts of resistance, negotiation, contestation, protest, and similar strategies. Several fundamental inquiries arise from this research.

For instance, how can street vendors challenge existing laws, disrupt established power structures, oppose dominant policies and practices, and question the way public spaces are portrayed by the elite? Additionally, they employ various defensive techniques and survival strategies to navigate their challenging circumstances. Street vendors often form collectives to engage in negotiations with local authorities regarding their legal rights to operate in public spaces and the enforcement of those rights.

Furthermore, the collective agency of street vendors can facilitate improved access to healthcare and cooperation with city management and residents. Unions, vendor associations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) play essential roles in supporting street vendors in claiming their livelihood rights and resisting exclusionary policies and practices associated with neoliberalism.

The dominant theme in the literature concerning street vending revolves around examining various facets of the policy environment. Extensive research has been conducted to delve into the policy landscape as it relates to street vendors.

Among the central questions posed in this context are those concerning the enforcement of laws, regulations, and policies, the management of public space utilization, formalization efforts, institutional considerations, effective governance, collaborative urban planning, administrative, financial, and security-related challenges, licensing processes, informal practices of collecting payments, and the inherent challenges in governing informal street vending.

In Nerenberg's study, the focus lies on how the Balim region in Indonesia has seen the intertwining of marginalization, inequality, and moral considerations in the realm of commerce. These dynamics have led to the emergence of distinctions, disruptions, and regulations, particularly in response to calls for recognizing the contributions of indigenous informal vendors to the regional economy.

Cuvi, drawing on theories of social closure and new institutionalism, investigates how a policy granting special privileges to disabled and elderly vendors in downtown S�o Paulo evolved into a decades-long monopoly over street vending licenses. During this time, these licensed vendors were able to establish political connections and gain legal recognition.

They subsequently leveraged these advantages to safeguard their relative positions during reforms, creating an enduring legacy of social closure. In another study by Munoz, the research underscores that urban redevelopment projects and aggressive spatial "recovery" policies in Bogot�'s neoliberal regime tend to overlook the diverse racial composition of street vendors. Instead, vending is often perceived solely as a class-based struggle.

This narrow perspective obscures the socio-economic realities faced by racialized individuals in the public sphere. The current body of literature reflects a rising interest in examining street vendors in the context of their ability to utilize various forms of technology.

Specifically, there is a focus on understanding to what extent street vendors are competitive in their adoption and use of technology, as well as exploring the advantages that technological innovations, such as mobile phone-enabled networks, can bring to street vendors. These questions have taken center stage in recent research on this subject.

Legal Provisions
Street vendors often face challenges, and while they may be perceived as encroaching on pavements, their demands for alternative spaces are driven by their need to earn a livelihood. The Indian Constitution, as mentioned, is a social document that aims to promote justice, equality, liberty, and fraternity. Here's a brief overview of the constitutional articles mentioned and how they relate to the rights of street vendors:

  • Article 14: Equality before Law and Equal Protection
    This article ensures that all individuals, including street vendors, are treated equally before the law. It prohibits discrimination and ensures that the law applies equally to all citizens, including those who make a living by selling their goods on the streets.
  • Article 19(1)(g): Freedom to Practice Any Profession
    Article 19(1)(g) grants citizens the fundamental right to practice any profession, trade, or occupation. Street vending can be considered a legitimate profession, and this article safeguards the right of street vendors to pursue their livelihoods.
  • Article 21: Protection against the Deprivation of Life and Personal Liberty
    Article 21 is a fundamental right that ensures the protection of an individual's life and personal liberty. Street vendors have the right to earn their livelihood without facing undue harassment or deprivation. This article can be invoked to protect their rights and ensure they are not arbitrarily deprived of their means of earning a living.

The Indian Constitution, as a guiding document for the nation, provides a legal framework to safeguard the rights and dignity of all citizens, including street vendors. Authorities need to consider these constitutional provisions while addressing the concerns of street vendors and finding ways to accommodate their livelihood needs within the broader framework of urban development and planning. This ensures a balance between development and the protection of the rights of marginalized sections of society.

The Bellagio International Declaration of Street Vendors in 1995 was a significant development in recognizing the rights and livelihoods of street vendors at the international level. It emphasized the need for the formulation of national policies for street hawkers and vendors worldwide.

The declaration aimed to improve the standard of living for street vendors by providing them with legal status through licensing, promoting self-regulation, facilitating access to legal systems, and providing credit facilities, among other measures.

In India, the Bellagio International Declaration served as a foundation for many subsequent policies related to street vending. The recognition of street vendors' rights and livelihoods has been further strengthened through legal judgments by the Indian Supreme Court:

  1. In the case of Bombay Hawkers Union v. BMC & Others, the Supreme Court upheld the right to livelihood of street vendors. It emphasized that unreasonable restrictions and conditions cannot be imposed on street vendors, recognizing their fundamental right to earn a living.
  2. In Gainda Ram v. MCD, the Supreme Court underscored that the fundamental rights of hawkers cannot be disregarded simply because they are poor and unorganized. It stressed that their rights should not be left in a state of uncertainty and should not be subject to varying standards that change from time to time under the orders of the Court.

These legal decisions and international declarations have played a crucial role in protecting the rights and livelihoods of street vendors in India and elsewhere. In South Calcutta Hawkers Association v. Government of West Bengal, the Calcutta High Court recognized street vending as a fundamental right, subject to the restrictions outlined in Article 19(6) of the Indian Constitution.

Article 19(6) allows the State to impose reasonable restrictions on the right to practice any profession, trade, or business in the interest of the general public. The court acknowledged that regulations were necessary to balance the rights of street vendors with the broader purpose of urban development, particularly the need to maintain roads and public spaces.

  1. In Sodan Singh v. NDMC, the Supreme Court issued guidelines to be followed by civic authorities until proper legislation could be enacted to regulate street vending. These guidelines aimed to provide a temporary framework for regulating street vending and ensuring the protection of the livelihoods of street vendors.
  2. However, the implementation of these guidelines has led to various litigations before various High Courts and the Supreme Court. The practical application of these guidelines and the challenges faced by street vendors in different regions have been subjects of legal disputes.
  3. In Maharashtra Ekta Hawkers Union v. MCGM (Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai), the Supreme Court revisited the guidelines for regulating street vending. This suggests that over time, the legal framework and guidelines related to street vending have evolved to address the changing dynamics and challenges faced by street vendors.

These legal cases and their outcomes reflect the ongoing efforts to strike a balance between the rights of street vendors and the broader goals of urban planning and development. It also emphasizes the importance of having a clear and comprehensive legal framework to regulate street vending, while also protecting the rights and livelihoods of street vendors. The National Association of Street Vendors in India registered in 2003, plays a vital role in representing the interests of street vendors and addressing the various challenges they face.

The organization conducts surveys in different areas to study the conditions and problems faced by street vendors. Their efforts are aimed at providing a platform for street vendors to voice their concerns and seek solutions to their issues. One of the key challenges that street vendors have faced is the need for a regulatory framework to differentiate between legitimate street vending and illegitimate business activities.

The introduction of a licensing system is an attempt to address this issue. Licensing helps in regulating street vending, ensuring that vendors have legal authorization to conduct their businesses and preventing illegitimate activities that can occur in the name of street vending. However, the licensing system has also been associated with issues like harassment by authorities and bribery, which have posed challenges for street vendors.

Way Forward:
In this short article, we have conducted a systematic review of the pertinent literature on street vending to assess the progress made in this field. We have identified a set of fundamental questions within the outlined themes encompassing gender, typology/types, spatial aspects of street vending and urban space design, health and well-being, individual and collective agency, the policy landscape, technology usage, and links to other forms of informality. While these themes may naturally intersect and overlap, they serve as analytical tools to enhance our understanding of the dynamics of informal street vending.

In this section, our primary focus is on charting the way forward by presenting emerging questions associated with certain themes. These include education, street food marketing, national security, considerations of race and ethnicity, unfair practices among street vendors, the impact of tourism, issues of violence, crime, and armed conflicts, xenophobia, vendor motivations, ethical and care-related aspects, temporality, and voting rights and electoral support.

These emerging questions represent areas that have received relatively limited research attention, and we believe they can inform future investigations into informal street vending. Additionally, we briefly discuss various geographical locations and contexts that remain relatively unexplored in the study of informal street vending.

While education's role in the realm of street vending has been acknowledged to some extent in existing studies, there exists considerable potential for more comprehensive empirical investigations and theoretical examinations in this domain. In recent literature, a discernible shift in focus has occurred, centering on several pivotal questions that have garnered substantial attention.

One of these questions revolves around the impact of a shrinking formal job market on the choice of educated individuals to engage in street vending. Researchers are increasingly probing the intricate dynamics and consequences of this shift, which has prompted individuals with educational backgrounds to turn to street vending as a means of economic sustenance.

Moreover, a growing body of work has emerged to explore the connections between the educational attainment of street vendors and the financial success of their businesses. This investigation seeks to unravel the nuanced relationship between education and profitability in the context of street vending, and how vendors' educational backgrounds influence their economic outcomes.

Another area of burgeoning interest is the effect of business management training on street vendors. As researchers delve into the various dimensions of training and education for those involved in this sector, they aim to discern how such training can enhance the skills, strategies, and overall performance of street vendors.

These evolving areas of inquiry underscore the ever-evolving landscape of street vending and the need to investigate the intersections between education, entrepreneurship, and economic survival. Consequently, there is a growing emphasis on understanding the evolving dynamics of this sector, in which education plays a multifaceted and increasingly central role.

Themes related to street food marketing and tourism have received relatively less attention in the existing body of literature. While the pertinent research in this area is limited, it has started to delve into several key questions that merit further exploration.

One such question revolves around the marketing capabilities of informal street vendors and their influence on maintaining a competitive edge in the street food market. This area of study aims to shed light on the strategies and practices that street vendors employ to effectively market their offerings in a highly competitive environment. Additionally, the development of marketing strategies for sustainable street food marketing has become a point of interest. Researchers are examining how street vendors can create and implement strategies that not only boost their market presence but also contribute to the long-term sustainability of their businesses.

Another facet under investigation pertains to the linkage between tourism and poverty alleviation from the perspective of street vendors. This involves assessing how the presence of tourists in urban areas impacts the livelihoods and economic well-being of street vendors. Understanding this dynamic is crucial for comprehending the role of street vending in addressing poverty in tourist-driven economies.

Moreover, the gendered mobilities of ethnic minority street vendors in urban tourist areas have started to emerge as a subject of research. This aspect explores how gender influences the mobility patterns and experiences of ethnic minority street vendors operating in areas with significant tourist footfall. In essence, while the exploration of street food marketing and its connection to tourism is an emerging field of study, it holds the promise of offering valuable insights into the evolving dynamics of informal street vending in urban settings.

An emerging body of research has begun to explore the intersections of race/ethnicity and ethics/care within the context of street vending. This evolving field of inquiry raises several pertinent questions, which are at the forefront of recent studies:

  1. How do class, race, and space intricately shape the lived experiences of street vendors? Researchers are delving into the complex ways in which these factors intersect and influence the daily realities of street vendors.
  2. The reconstruction of gender hierarchies within the realm of ethnic minority street vending is a subject of growing interest. Investigating the dynamics of how gender dynamics are reshaped in these specific contexts provides valuable insights into the socio-cultural dimensions of street vending.
  3. Street vending sites are increasingly being recognized as significant spaces for the examination of consumer ethics. Researchers are exploring the ethical considerations and decision-making processes of consumers in these settings, shedding light on the ethical dimensions of street vending practices.

Munoz's study emphasizes the importance of understanding the relationship between race and class in discussions surrounding the "recovery" of public spaces in Bogot�. In this context, black racialized street vendors often remain marginalized and invisible, marked by discourses of crime, displacement, and being considered undesirable within public spaces. This underscores the necessity of addressing racial and class-based disparities within the discourse on urban space reclamation.

Recent literature has increasingly delved into the exploration of temporality within the context of informal street vending. Researchers are focused on uncovering the intricate dynamics of time and how it relates to various aspects of street vending. This research has given rise to key questions that are now at the forefront of scholarly investigation.

One central area of inquiry pertains to how the practices of informal street vendors are intricately connected to the spatiotemporal layout of the city. Researchers are interested in understanding how time interacts with the spatial aspects of street vending, ultimately shaping the way vendors conduct their businesses.

Moreover, the temporal and material characteristics of ordinary street vending practices have come under scrutiny. This research seeks to unravel the temporal aspects of street vending, examining how the timing of activities and the materials used in vending operations influence the overall dynamics of this economic activity. Additionally, a time-space sharing design approach to manage street vending and democratize access to and control of public spaces has been proposed.

This approach is designed to address the temporal and spatial aspects of street vending and seeks to provide a framework for effectively managing street vending activities while ensuring fair and inclusive access to public spaces. It reflects a growing interest in the need to create equitable and well-regulated spaces for street vendors within the urban landscape.

Overall, the examination of temporality in the context of informal street vending offers a fresh perspective on the intricate relationship between time and space in the management and organization of this important economic sector.

This article carries significant implications, primarily in its ability to pinpoint specific questions and thematic areas that have been focal points in scholarly discourse, while also highlighting areas that warrant further exploration within the relevant literature on informal street vending.

Although a substantial body of knowledge already exists on various facets of the policy environment and individual/collective agency, there remains ample room for investigating these core themes across diverse contexts, facilitating more comprehensive comparative studies. This approach can lead to a more holistic understanding of the nuances and commonalities that span different settings and regions.

Moreover, our comprehension of typology/types and the spatial dimensions of street vending and public space design can be greatly enriched by increased theoretical and empirical research. Such research can provide valuable insights that can effectively inform interventions related to urban planning and the built environment, ultimately contributing to the improved management and inclusivity of street vending within cities.

Furthermore, this short article has underscored certain themes like gender, the use of technology, and the links between informal street vending and other forms of informality, which have received comparatively less attention in existing literature. To advance our knowledge in these areas, more empirical research is required to establish a comprehensive, evidence-based understanding of how various forms of informal street vending operate in conjunction with other forms of informality, such as informal settlements and informal transport, across diverse scales and contexts.

By addressing these research gaps, we can enhance our comprehension of the multifaceted dynamics of informal street vending and its interactions with broader informal urban phenomena.

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