Sunday, July 01, 2007

Understanding the informal sector

In Visakhapatnam, petty trade flourishes at street corners, on the footpaths and on small pieces of Municipal Corporation of Visakhapatnam (MCV) lands that are unoccupied. The petty traders use tree cover or a baddi i.e. a kiosk for a shelter. They are increasing in number, causing congestion and occupation of lands that can be more suitably used. The Corporation felt the need to relocate these traders to alloted spaces. Initially, more than 15 sites were identified by MCV for a bazaar that provides spaces for petty trades.

It was necessary to perceive the problems faced by Petty traders in the city and those faced by the Municipal Corporation due to the existence of petty trade activities. The initial observations showed that Cost is a major factor in selection of the type of stalls that are seen at random locations all over the city. Twenty years ago, a baddi of size 6’-0” x 6’-0” could cost Rs.5,000. Today, the same baddi can cost upto Rs.20,000. Having stood the test of time, these baddis are probably the most appropriate and cost-effective solutions as shelters for business. The spontaneity of the entrepreneur and his family in creating a suitable work environment results in individualistic designs.

The infrastructural costs are kept low by occupying street junctions, footpaths and vacant lots, instead of purchasing regular shops. The hawker uses sometimes a bedsheet to spread out his wares, or a few wooden crates that make a small platform or a kiosk (these are made from wooden planks from used cargo crates for the walls and asbestos sheets for the roof). These baddis or kiosks do not require lengthy procedures for approval by the authorities. A shop constructed in brick and plaster with an RCC slab roof can be built and occupied only after submission of architectural plans to the Municipal Corporation. This can be time consuming and of course more expensive.

The design for the petty traders project took the form of a tree, a pergola and a barrel vault.

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