Thousands of street vendors suffered from great hardships during the lockdown and shutdown phase. In response to this the Odisha government announced a Covid cash assistance of ₹3,000, which still remains a mirage for most of the vendors. The dereliction of duty of Cuttack Municipal Corporation (CMC) has kept around 5,000 street vendors out of its official database.
Manoj Bastia, a 38-year-old vendor from Chandni Chowk, runs a children's garments shop near City hospital for the past 15 years. He wasn't able to take advantage of the scheme as his name was not included in the civic body's registered street vendors list. In addition to this Jagannath Biswal of Rovers Street, who runs a footwear shop near Padhiary Pathagar for over eight years, and Chandia Majhi, a dahibara aloodum vendor in Choudhury Bazar, have been at disadvantage due to the same reason.
On an average, there are more than 10,000 street vendors in the city. But the civic body's survey put the tally at 3,463. The survey of street vendors was last conducted in 2017. Since then, they haven't had a chance to enrol themselves for the government schemes.
As per the government's guidelines, we had submitted the applications for availing the Covid-19 assistance at the CMC office. After submission of the applications, the officials had verified our shops. But we are yet to get the benefits, said Manoj and Jagannath.
Cuttack Municipal Corporation's Take
The survey was conducted casually by the CMC due to which many street vendors were dropped from the list. Also, during these last five years many others have newly taken up street vending for survival in the city. They are yet to be registered by the civic body, said Barabati-Cuttack MLA Mohammed Moquim.
Slum Improvement Officer Amrit Sarkar, however, stated that the CMC so far have spent ₹3,000 to ₹ 5,793 on Covid-19 assistance by transferring the money to the street vendor's bank accounts. According to him, apart from the 3,463 registered vendors, they had also provided assistance to 2,330 street vendors based on the letters of recommendation. During the process of verification, these vendors were found to be genuine following which the assistance was sanctioned.
The unregistered street vendors are under a lot of distress due to the lockdown in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. To avoid these situations in future the CMC officials should go for a fresh survey to update the list of the street vendors.