Friday, April 23, 2010

the right to do business on the pavement

The progressive city government in Calcutta is now initiating a program to legalize street hawkers. The Telegraph newspaper has the details. In a further analysis, the paper quotes a municipal official on the pragmatic reasons for working with street sellers: "The ground realities in the city are such that hawkers can neither be easily evicted nor restricted to specific zones. Try forcing a vendor doing roaring business on a Gariahat pavement for years to shift to another location and you will know what I mean.”

Though the Telegraph harumphs that "you, the pedestrian, will ultimately forfeit the right to your pavement," the reality is that there are 325,000 street hawkers in the city. If they weren't important and desirable, people wouldn't be buying from them and building and store-owners wouldn't allow them to operate right outside their doors.

The government promises to keep some areas of town free from street sellers, while limiting hawking in other areas and allowing it full-force in other sections of town. This is a sensible, pragmatic proposal.

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