News on Sunday

Youth debate: Should hawkers be allowed in city centres?

During this festive season, hawkers seize this opportunity to do some extra business in city centres. However, the government has recently decided to crack-down on the chaotic situation by implementing specially-designated base of operation for them. Hawkers are asking to be allowed to once more occupy streets as the festive season draws closer. Should they be allowed to? Youth debate this issue.

Nuzhaa NowbuthNuzhaa Nowbuth: “They should be allowed”

Many people buy from hawkers because their products are cheap and affordable, says Nuzha Nowbuth. “In December, many hawkers operate in urban areas and make sizeable profits. Hawkers should be given the right to sell their products, as they are working honestly to earn their livelihood. If they are somehow not allowed to trade, it may cause a rise in crime rate, as these people will be unemployed and they will not have any source of income. Furthermore, citizens find it more affordable to buy from them rather than from shops and they also offer a variety of products. Hawkers should be allowed to operate during the month of December, as it is a festive season and many people will need to do their shopping and they are convinced that hawkers are offering them products at a fair price. This will be in the interest of all citizens as well as the country. However, the amount of hawkers present in public places should be limited to avoid incidents in bustling areas.”

Yeshna BansroyYeshna Bansroy: “They contribute to the economy”

Hawkers definitely play a crucial role in the city of Port-Louis during the month of December, claims Yeshna Bansroy. “Firstly, they contribute to the economy. They create a festive ambiance in the city whereby people can do shopping, specially tourists. Hawkers are poor people who should be encouraged to work honestly and I believe stalls should be rented out according to the type of products sold as each product have different profit margins. If hawkers are being prohibited to work, the rate of theft and crime might increase. Hawkers create a competitive edge among the shops selling more or less identical products and in the end; the customer benefits the most. But unfortunately, some hawkers do not have a very positive image, as many of them overprice their products and many tourists as well as Mauritians even complain that hawkers sell expired products and they also declare counterfeit products as original.”

Kevin MartinKevin Martin: “Should avoid sales of illicit products”

Kevin Martin believes that hawkers strive hard to make a living and are hard workers. “They go the extra mile to run their households by standing in the sun for long hours to sell their products. Most hawkers are entrepreneurs who earn their income in an honest way. However, they often find themselves treated like criminals especially during the festive season. December is a month where people are more eager to buy things because of Christmas and New Year celebrations which means that there is high demand of products especially toys during that period.”

He further adds that “hawkers should be allowed to sell their products as it would avoid shops from exploiting customers with higher prices because of the increased demand. In so doing, both customers and hawkers will benefit. However, measures should be taken to avoid sales of illicit products and crowded areas. Having too many hawkers may cause traffic jams due to crowds. A better solution would be to establish a specific area where these hawkers could sell their products and to maintain police presence.”

Yaadav DamreeYaadav Damree: “A specific place for them is better” 

If December is referred to a time of rejoicing for traders, it also turns to a nightmare for hawkers who operate in the city centres, claims Yaadav Damree. “Like every year, these hawkers make more money during December as they get customers from all over the island. What is more worrying is that a majority of hawkers working in the cities are facing a lot of criticism from traders stating that their presence is affecting their business. Hawkers should definitely be allowed to operate in December in city centres. But, most importantly, we should have a look at both sides of the coin.”

According to him, hawkers usually operate along footpaths, in front of shops, while shopowners fork out hefty sums of money in terms of rent and rates. “They obstruct pedestrian circulation by blocking footpaths. Many people also state that these hawkers are rough and sell defective products. Despite these criticisms, many kind-hearted Mauritians choose to support hawkers. Many say that hawkers also have a family to feed, and due to unemployment, they are bound to be street vendors to bring money home. As other people with a good job have additional expenses in December, hawkers have those too. So for them to be able to have the means, they need work, and the only solution is to continue working. A specific place for hawkers to operate without charging for any rent will definitely bring peace to the chaos of past years. Legislation will reinforce hawkers.”

Warda KataullyWarda Kataully: “They should not operate”

Warda Kataully is categorical about hawkers operating during the festive season. “Just like the hawkers of Port Louis were relocated, if other cities allocated a specific place for these hawkers to operate, it would be much better. Because let’s face it, hawkers lining the streets are a nuisance for users. Drivers have less space to drive and people have fewer places to walk thus being a hazard for drivers and a nuisance for pedestrians. Not to mention that they give tough competition to those who choose to operate legally by renting a space to sell their merchandise only to find that customers would rather buy from hawkers who can afford to sell items at cheaper rate since they don’t pay rent. So, it is unfair to those who are operating legally. So no, it is only too easy to let hawkers operate. Imagine we have a physician having all his qualifications and treats his patients and charges a certain fee for that. Now, we have another individual who doesn’t have any qualifications but ‘treats’ people for lesser fee.”

Avinash DhondooAvinash Dhondoo: “A major attraction for tourists”

Avinash Dhondoo states that critics of street vendors argue that those compete unfairly against off-street establishments because they do not incur registration and taxation costs, and do not have costs such as rent and utility payments. “This creates unfair competition; the argument goes, threatening the viability of off-street establishments. However, hawkers are the essence of a particular town or localities. We all know that Port Louis is not the same anymore with their relocation. They provide a kind of enjoyment for shopping. They contribute to the economic, social, and cultural life of a city by offering a dependable retail outlet for a wide range of affordable goods, including fresh produce, prepared food, school and office supplies, clothing, hardware, and electronics. Because street vendors sell affordable goods in small quantities, they offer the poor customer access to otherwise unaffordable goods. They also represent a major attraction for tourists looking for an authentic experience particularly street foods. In addition, personally I think that street vending actually saves cities money by enabling the working poor to generate jobs for themselves, whereas without this opportunity they may become further dependent on city services or turn to criminal activities in order to survive. For me, they should operate for them, for their families, for us working classes people and for not to kill the liveliness of our cities and towns.” 

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