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70-year-old corn seller’s cart was seized by Bengaluru civic body. Then…

When Selvamma's pushcart was seized by the Bengaluru civic body as part of an anti-encroachment drive, a community stepped up to have it released.

July 27, 2023 / 11:19 AM IST

Selvamma has sold roasted corn outside Cubbon Park for nearly three decades (Image credit: @priyachettyr/Twitter)

For nearly three decades, Selvamma was a permanent fixture outside Bengaluru’s Cubbon Park, where she sold roasted corn (bhutta) to visitors to earn a living. Last Friday, however, the 70-year-old corn seller was spotted sitting outside the park with tears in her eyes. Her pushcart -- her only source of her income -- had been seized by Bengaluru’s civic body, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).

Selvamma’s story first came to light when Priya Chetty Rajagop, an activist, tweeted about her plight last week. “I searched for it everywhere, but I could not find it [the cart]. I was told that some BBMP personnel had taken it away,” a tearful Selvamma told Rajagop, who started a campaign to have the pushcart returned to its rightful owner.

What followed was a concerted effort by a group of activists and citizens over the next few days to trace her cart, which ended with parliamentarian PC Mohan announcing yesterday (July 26) that Selvamma’s pushcart had been returned to her.

“Since I started walking in the park more than 20 years ago, I have seen her selling bhuttas every day. It is outrageous that the authorities took her sole source of income,” Rajagop told Times of India.

Selvamma’s cart was seized as part of an ant-encroachment drive by the BBMP, but Rajagop pointed to the need of striking a balance between the pedestrian area and sellers covered under the Street Vendors Act. “BBMP must strike a balance between the two, but to what extent is it right to take away her sole source of income?” she asked.

Rajagop’s tweet on Selvamma caught the eye of concerned citizens like Vinay Sreenivasa, an advocate who got in touch with BBMP. His efforts to have the pushcart returned went in vain.

"I don't know which authority of BBMP took away her cart. But whoever did, it is against the law. They don't have any right to do this unilaterally. They don't give notice before removing pushcarts. BBMP should conduct a survey and provide identity cards to street vendors, but the agency is busy evicting them,” Sreenivasa told Times of India. “People are vending on streets because of poverty and are not able to afford rent for the space BBMP is providing. Nobody likes to sell on the streets. It is not a fun thing to do standing in rain, sun and dust every day. They are there because of their need,” he added.

Efforts to trace Selvamma’s cart eventually bore fruit. On Wednesday, July 26, PC Mohan, member of Lok Sabha from Bengaluru Central constituency, tweeted that her pushcart had been released.

“Glad to share that BBMP has released the cart for the poor elderly lady who has been selling corn and other delicacies at Cubbon Park for the last three decades,” he wrote. “We understand the significance of street food vendors like her in preserving culture, tradition, and memories.”

“We must continue to value and uplift these hardworking individuals who bring so much to our city. Their commitment to their craft should be celebrated and protected. Let's ensure that street food vendors like her can continue to operate without unnecessary disruptions,” the parliamentarian added.

first published: Jul 27, 2023 08:02 am

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