Kohima, May 1 (EMN): The International Workers’ Day or Labour Day, which is observed across the world on May 1 every year, was celebrated with a difference in Kohima as activists dissected the plight of women street vendors in the state and encouraged them to expand their business.
The programme was held at Red Cross building in Kohima and the theme for the occasion this year was “Uniting workers for social and economic advancement.” It was initiated by the Entrepreneur Associates (EA) in collaboration with the Nagaland State Legal Service Authority, Kohima DLSA and Capri Global Foundation.
Advisor of EA, Neikule Doulo revealed some startling findings about the State’s women street vendors during the occasion.
Sharing the findings of the EA over the last one-and-a-half year, she said majority of the vendors do not have any long-term savings; 65% of them save only annually to be utilised during the Christmas season or in the academic expenses of their children, while 35% of women do not have any savings. Kohima has the highest percentage of single mothers with 26% vendors living without husbands or widowed, she added.
Nearly 40% of the vendors have never attended school, which is a contradiction to the high literacy rate of the state, she pointed out. She was of the view that these women are doing a commendable job, describing them as the “ones who link the rural Naga economy to urban Naga.”
She also said that EA started a programme called ‘uplifting women street vendors’ in 2017 on realising that street vendors fail to expand their businesses even after several years in the business and that it was started solely by a few well-wishers of EA members.
The primary aim of the programme was to encourage these women to grow through consistent savings and proper financial planning. The EA also conducted trainings for vendors in several districts like Phek, Mokokchung, Kohima, Dimapur, and Pfütsero in the year the programme was incepted, reaching out to about 1000 vendors, Doulo said.
Nagaland State Legal Services Authority (NSLSA) member secretary Mezivolu T Therieh said during the occasion that Nagaland state is yet to implement the Street Vendors Act (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014, which comes under the category of unorganised work sector. Stressing on the need to implement the Act in the state, she said that once it is implemented, the state can formulate certain summary of scheme notified by the appropriate government in consultation with the local authority and the town vending committee, specified in the Second Schedule of the Act.
She said that the act will provide protection to street vendors from harassment by the police and other authorities.
NSLSA is always ready to support the street vendors for the implementation of this Act in Nagaland, she assured. She went on to say that labour laws in India are a body of laws that address legal rights of working people and their organisations, and the relationship between trade unions, employers and employees.
Out of the 440 million workers in India, 93% of them are in the unorganised sector, she informed. The contribution made by the unorganised sector to the national income is substantial, accounting for more than 60% of the national income while the contribution of the organised sector is almost half of that depending on the industry, Therieh pointed out.
She said that in India, only about 8% of workers actually get the benefits available under various labour Acts, while the rest 92% works in unorganised sector, and are either not eligible for coverage or these Acts are “just not implemented for them,” which is why these workers have insecurity and low income.
“They have no coverage of social security, and have to spend out of their meagre income for all contingencies such as illness and children’s education; in their old age, they are helpless,” she said.
Deputy Commissioner of Kohima, Anoop Khinchi said that EA’s initiative is actually helping the farmers and the consumers, apart from street vendors. He congratulated them for taking up such an initiative.
“The administration along with the Kohima Municipal Council can see how we can accommodate street vendors in a good place to sell their products,” said Khinchi. He also encouraged the entrepreneurs to meet him so that more such programmes could be organised to help the street vendors.
Kohima DLSA presented a drama on street vendors’ struggles and the possible way out of it (struggle). Best performers (street vendors) in regard to savings were awarded during the occasion, and EA also distributed raincoats to street vendors of Kohima. A short movie called ‘Kane’ was screened at the event.