Lakshmi, vice-president of Thiruvallur Mavatta Sirukadai Nadaipathai Vyapaara Amaippusara Thozhilalar Sangam(Thiruvallur Distrct Street Vendors and Unorganized Workers Union), has been a street vendor for the past 20 years. After her husband, a manual loader, could not work due to health reasons, both ventured into providing breakfast for the working class using a food cart at the Red Hills bus stand. The earnings of Rs 500 per day has sustained her family of 3 children. Her neighbour Mumtaj has been selling fruits along with her husband, as employment for her husband, a helper for lorry drivers, dried up. Lakshmi, Mumtaj and 150+ vendors are fighting to keep access to their livelihood in Red Hills town, part of Thiruvallur District.
The union representative, Comrade Raman of AICCTU alleges that the eviction drive was initiated because the District Collector, who was visiting a local office, had to stop due to traffic and walk 300 meters. While this could not be confirmed, a news by Tamil Daily Malai Murasu, has a statement by the collectorate officials on the traffic issues faced by public transports and emergency vehicles and blames the encroachments as the cause. The news release on Aug 14th, further states that all shops and encroachments would be forcibly removed on Aug 18th and the confiscated materials and assets would not be returned, as earlier notices against encroachments have been ignored.
Locals and union representatives say that police and bulldozers were brought in to evict the vendors. Lakshmi says she and other street vendors fought with the police and the officials demanding a regular employment or access to livelihood. In the mean time, a writ petition filed by the union on August 19th with Madras High Court, has stayed the forced eviction by the collectorate and has directed the Collector to ’cause a survey in cooperation and coordination with all the concerned officers of the area in question, make an inventory of complete list of occupants occupying at present, after obtaining their signature in their presence’ under the ambit of Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regularization of Street Vending) Act, 2014.
Subsequently, after 3 negotiations, a settlement was reached on September 30th in the presence of collectorate, RTO, highways department, unions and other stake holders. According to this settlement, 6 feet lane will be marked and allocated for all the affected street vendors for continuing their livelihood. This settlement is yet to be implemented.