As in the case of many other developing world cities in the city of Ahmedabad too, the informal sector today is one of the main employers of a large number of people who are not technically or professionally qualified or equipped to obtain jobs in service or manufacturing sectors.
Besides, permanent protected jobs in the organised sector are shrinking. Hence, even those having the requisite skills are finding it difficult to get proper employment. In a city like Ahmedabad for not just the urban poor, the immigrants, the lower middle income groups and for even a section of the middle income groups, hawking is one of the main means of earning a proper livelihood and enhancing an existing living income.
And importantly for the city dwellers, they are of use as they provide seasonal and cheaper variety of commodities and thus cater to needs of different people in different annual cycles.
Spurred by the presence of a vast consumer group, hawking and vending in food and refreshments is fast becoming one of the major business realms within the large informal sector and happens to be an active mean by which goods and services are delivered not just to the poor but also to various other large sections and people in urban areas.
The food and drink segment operating within the informal sector is in actuality generating a lot of income through their business activity and has slowly constituted a resourceful network comprising a sizeable number of players operating largely in the outline of an existence connected to their cultural and regional background.
The informal sector usually operates outside the established legal, administrative and economic structures of a country but the entrepreneurial culture of Ahmedabad as a business city with deep roots in trade and commerce has aided in the development and flourishing of a strong informal sector catering to many needs of urban life. From the tea vendors present on each and every street, the ones selling food items, fruits, vegetables and eatables vendors they have become one of the most important components in the urban life here.
The city has provided ample scope and space for this informal sector to happen and flourish and has a very strong network of informal sectors in each and every profile dealing with life; it’s the existence of an over-the- counter entrepreneurial attitude that makes informal sector survives so efficiently here.
According to rough estimates, there are presently more than 90,000 street vendors in Ahmedabad in which a sizable section belongs to informal players catering to food and refreshments. They provide important, requisite services to daily life in the city and in the process thrive as an emergent sector and also in the process provide vitality to urban life through a variety of informal activities.
Issues to keep in mind are:
_ Need for essential services is increasing indicating rise of informal sector as present service sources are not able to provide cheap and daily deliverable and sustainable solutions either by formal service providers or governmental agencies.
_ Informal sector provides seasonal services to people depending upon needs and requirements
_ The city is directly benefited from the services offered by these players; they cater to many basic requirements of urban life in an affordable proposition making them accessible to all and thereby plural.
_ No dearth of services, but competition within themselves ensures fair price index and quality
_ Contrary to situations in other developing cities/ urban contexts the informal players here are not prone to crime and anti-social activities ‘or’ in nexus of anti-social elements, but often constitute an ingredient in healthy urban life and provide vitality to city life very actively.
_ Direct income generation due to employment and livelihood opportunities’ and activity networking Inculcates self reliance and entrepreneurial attitude.
The activities are leading to the creation of immediate livelihood and job opportunity leading to direct poverty reduction. Removing various technical and bureaucratic hurdles in rules and regulations, creating proper infrastructural conditions by the way of service plots with infrastructure could further enhance the functioning and operational achievement.
The cities’ acceptance of this phenomena and facilitation would ensure quality and surety. So in principle they serve better remaining as self managed whatever facilitation from authorities can make it a sustainable and healthy combination.