Activist Iih calls off protest after agreement with KMCThe youth activist was staging a standing protest outside the metropolis office for over a week demanding alternative arrangements for street vendors.
The Kathmandu Metropolitan City and activist Iih reached a four-point agreement on Wednesday evening. Iih was staging a stand-in protest outside the metropolitan city office continuously for the past eight days, demanding that street vendors, who have been banned from running their businesses on the pavements of Kathmandu streets, be given an appropriate alternative to run their businesses.
The two sides have agreed to form an eight-member committee to study the issue and suggest ways to address the problem.
The committee is given two months to submit a report offering suggestions on places and time duration suitable to run street businesses. The committee comprises three representatives from the KMC, two on behalf of activist Iih, one each from the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport Management and the Ministry of Urban Development, and one representative from the Traffic Police.
According to the agreement, the KMC will take initiatives within a week to identify appropriate alternative places for those who had been running their businesses on footpaths or other public places.
Chinikaji Maharjan, executive committee member of the KMC, and Dhiraj Joshi, an official of the secretariat of Kathmandu Mayor Balendra Shah, and activist Iih signed the agreement. Representatives of street vendors were also present during the signing.
In 2020, Iih had staged a hunger strike demanding government accountability in responding to the pandemic.
On Wednesday afternoon, the National Human Rights Commission expressed its serious concern towards Iih’s health condition. By that time, Iih had been over a week into his protest. Members of the public and politicians from across the spectrum had visited him to express their solidarity to his peaceful protest and demands.
Earlier, in the afternoon, Mayor Shah had asked activist Iih and his supporters to end the protest.
Taking to his Facebook account, Shah said that he had no authority to fulfil the demands set forth by Iih and asked the agitators to instead end the protest, abide by the law and not create hassles for those working as per the law.
Reiterating his stand on street vendors, Shah stated that such businesses were illegal and that allowing such businesses to run during dedicated time slots was also not viable.
“Emotions could make us sympathise with the vendors but by law, they are nothing but illegal,” he wrote on Facebook. “Children, visually-impaired, pregnant women, and those suffering from other illnesses will have to use the pathways during the two hours, in the morning and the evening, as well. Moreover, it isn’t that no untoward incidents will take place during that time period. Such street vendors will obstruct the way during such emergency situations.”
Shah added that more than 20 percent of the calls, around 1000, made to the city’s call centres in the last one year have been regarding the removal of street vendors.
As far as the proposal to use some open spaces to allow street vendors to operate their businesses is concerned, not just the mayor, but even the prime minister and the Cabinet cannot give such permission, the statement further reads.
To let street vendors continue with their businesses in the spaces would be an injustice to those who were displaced and whose homes were demolished to clear the space, and a violation of the law which mentions that such spaces cannot be used for purposes other than what they were acquired for, the statement further read.
“You must have understood that we do not have the right to fulfil your demand on such grounds,” the mayor wrote.
The mayor also stated that leaders supporting the demonstration were being politically dishonest.
“As far as the support and calls to fulfil the demands from [politicians] KP Sharma Oli, Baburam Bhattarai, Kamal Thapa, Gagan Thapa, Swarnim Wagle, and others are concerned, we only sense political dishonesty,” Shah wrote. “They are in the position to make rules, but have they made clear rules regarding the issue?”
The mayor went on, “I have not forgotten my electoral agenda, and won’t do so either. The KMC will always be there to be the voice of the poor.”