Today, vending is an important source of employment for a large number of village poor as it requires low skills and small financial inputs. Broadly defined, a street vendor is a person who offers goods or services for sale to the public without having a permanent built-up structure but with a temporary static structure or mobile stall (or head-load). Street vendors could be stationary and occupy space on the pavements or other public/private areas, or could be mobile, and move from place to place carrying their wares on push carts or in cycles or baskets on their heads, or could sell their wares in moving buses.
The total number of street vendors in the country is estimated at around 10 million. Some studies estimate that street vendors constitute approximately 2 per cent of the population of a metropolis. Mumbai has roughly 2,50,000 street vendors and Kolkata has nearly 2,00,000. The street vendors market many goods, such as clothes and hosiery, household goods and food items, manufactured by home based workers, who have no other channels of marketing the products that they produce. They also ensure the availability of goods and services at cheaper rates to people.
Organizational strength and voice is not very strong amongst the street vendors but this is slowly changing. The National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI) was established in September 1998 to bring together the street vendor organisations across India so as to take forward their collective struggle for policy and regulatory changes. NASVI is a coalition of membership-based organizations of street vendors, trade unions, and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) working for street vendors spread all over India. NASVI was registered in November 2003. 276 organizations representing 168,278 street vendors from twenty states of India have taken the formal membership contributing membership fee.
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