When Aparajita Sarangi took charge as the municipal commissioner of Bhubaneswar, Odisha, in 2006, she saw the city's streets were full of filth and garbage left behind by street vendors, especially the food vendors. She initiated antiencroachment drives and got the vendors removed from the streets. Within a week, the vendors were back in business. She ordered seizure of their products, but this did not yield result either. "I could see myself failing in giving the city something as basic as cleanliness," she says. "I was furious and told the association of Bhubaneswar Street Vendors to evacuate the streets." Their reply was an eye-opener. They said the street vendors will return each time they are removed. For, it is a means of their livelihood. "They will not budge," the association members said.
After this began several rounds of meetings. Finally, an advertising company came up with a solution. It promised to build shelters measuring 8x8 and 10x10 feet for vendors. In return it asked for advertising rights.
"We decided to take an areawise approach instead of making it a city-based campaign. We shortlisted the areas and found 2,200 street vendors operating on the main roads. They were issued identity cards and licences. I spoke to the administration and arranged for land on lease. Cabins were built for the vendors, which cost between ` 18,000 and ` 20,000. The advertising agency contributed ` 10,000 while the rest was paid by the street vendor.
The street food vendors were trained in hygiene and cleanliness. Dustbins were installed near their cabins. If the area was found dirty, penalty of ` 50 was charged from the vendors. So they would sprinkle water twice a day to keep the area dust-free.
Neatly built cabins for street-food vendors have ended traffic chaos in Bhubaneswar
Aparajita Sarangi, former municipal commissioner, Bhubaneswar