Rashmi Rekha Das

Hundreds of street vendors under the aegis of All Odisha Roadside Vendors' Association took out a massive rally in Bhubaneswar on Friday protesting against the eviction drives being carried out by the Bhubaneswar Municipality Corporation (BMC) ahead of the Men's Hockey World Cup 2023. 

According to sources, with few days left for the sports extravaganza, the civic authorities have started evicting roadside vendors as part of the beautification drive of the state capital. 

Resentment is brewing among vendors who came down heavily on the municipal authorities for not rehabilitating them before carrying out the eviction drives.

“The BMC authorities carried out eviction drive without rehabilitating us. Besides, they did not even provide compensation for the loss we incurred due to the ongoing eviction drives across Bhubaneswar,” alleged protesting vendors who took out a rally from Damana Square.

They mobbed the office of north BMC seeking compensation and rehabilitation.

A vendor said, “Utkal Nikhila Khetriya Traders’ Trust had demanded BMC to rehabilitate poor vendors before evicting them. Earlier, the Orissa High Court had instructed the same to municipal authorities. But the BMC failed to adhere to the Orissa High Court’s order. Acting against the court’s order, it kept on demolishing stalls of small-time vendors. That’s why we the vendors have gathered to raise our voices against BMC’s injustice. We would intensify our protest in the coming days if we are not rehabilitated.”

Another vendor raised questions on the eviction saying “BMC must have taken this decision six months back. How could it evict us all of sudden without intimating us?”

Criticizing the eviction drive, a third vendor said, “The Odisha government wants us to go to Surat and work as migrant labourers. That’s why it is evicting us without thinking about our future. The government has failed to eradicate poverty. I must say poverty has increased manifold under its rule.”

Meanwhile, a scuffle broke out between the agitating vendors and police when the latter tried to prevent them from entering the BMC office premises.

President of the outfit Pratap Sahu said, “We would continue our protest till our demands are not met. There are 30,000 roadside vendors out of which 15,000 vendors’ stalls have been demolished by BMC. One vendor looks after a four-member family. In this process, 60,000 people have already been affected by BMC’s drive so far.”