Hawkers across India demand justice from Amazon

The Hawkers Joint Action Committee is taking a stance against Amazon and its destruction of India’s local economies.
The Hawkers Joint Action Committee is an All-India joint platform of street vendors associations, and members of the coalition to #MakeAmazonPay.

We all are witness to the devastating consequences of climate change. But Amazon continues its business as usual. As the infinite cost of climate change reaches irreversible highs, it is time to Make Amazon Pay.

Amazon is contributing immensely to the climate crisis through the emissions resulting from shipping products to and from warehouses, and to buyers and pickup points and consuming energy at offices, data centers and warehouses. Amazon’s irresponsible packaging processes for all the boxes and other packing items only add to it.

Recently, In India, Amazon has started farm-to-doorstep fruit and vegetable deliveries. Such business practices are directly threatening the livelihoods of millions of street vendors popularly called ‘hawkers’.

Hawkers are the backbone of the traditional provisioning systems of India. Their number is huge. According to various estimates, there are between twenty and forty million hawkers in India.

On the one hand, hawkers provide markets to small farmers and small manufacturers. On the other hand, they support the urban poor to survive in cities.

It is to be noted that 86.2 percent of Indian farmers are small farmers. According to the 2018-19 Annual Report of the Department of MSMEs, there are 63.4 million micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) in India. 99.5 per cent of all MSMEs fall in the micro category employing over 110 million people.

It is also estimated that approximately 95 percent of India’s workforce works in the informal and unorganised sector. Among them, 64 percent of workers work as self-employed.

Replacing traditional provisioning systems — based on street vendors and small businesses — with Amazon-style corporate distribution will further deepen the climate crisis and push back millions to poverty.

Street vendors, small farmers and small manufacturers have almost no carbon footprint. Street vendors usually sell local, seasonal and natural products. By contrast, Amazon sells globally sourced, preserved, over-processed items with wasteful packaging processes.

According to Amazon, its net sales increased by 22% in 2019 (excluding changes in foreign exchange rates), and its total carbon footprint increased by15% during the same period. Its 2019 carbon intensity metric was 122.8 grams of CO2e per GMS.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis for almost all of us — but that can’t be said about Amazon. Amazon sales have beaten their pre-covid level. It seems that Amazon has benefited hugely from the crisis.

Hawkers are reporting lower footfall and declining sales, and many attribute this to Amazon. During the lockdown, most hawkers were not allowed to pursue their livelihoods, and many consumers shifted to online shopping, getting accustomed to platforms like Amazon.

This is a permanent loss for poor street vendors. We must realize that retail services based on street vendors and small businesses are solutions to the climate crisis, and that Amazon’s based model is at the heart of our economic, social, and climate problems.

The Hawkers Joint Action Committee, an All-India joint platform of street vendors associations and collectives demands climate justice now. Amazon must pay to decarbonise the retailing economy and take action to protect and promote traditional retailers in our country and around the world.

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