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Chapter 8
Urban 
Livelihoods
1. What do you see in 
this illustration?
2. You have already 
read about the work 
that people do in rural 
areas. Now compare 
the work that people 
in this illustration are 
doing with the work 
that people do in rural 
areas. 
3. Some parts of  the 
city are different  
from others. What 
differences do 
you notice in this 
illustration?
Unit_IV Ch 8.indd   69 14-11-2022   04:34:12 PM
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 2


Chapter 8
Urban 
Livelihoods
1. What do you see in 
this illustration?
2. You have already 
read about the work 
that people do in rural 
areas. Now compare 
the work that people 
in this illustration are 
doing with the work 
that people do in rural 
areas. 
3. Some parts of  the 
city are different  
from others. What 
differences do 
you notice in this 
illustration?
Unit_IV Ch 8.indd   69 14-11-2022   04:34:12 PM
Rationalised 2023-24
70 / Social and Political Life
Working on the Street 
T
his is the city where my cousin 
lives. I’ve been here only a few 
times. It is very big. Once, when I came 
here, my  cousin took me around. We  
left the house early in the morning. As 
There are more than five thousand towns and twenty seven big cities 
in India. Big cities like Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata etc. have more 
than a million people living and working here. They say that ‘the city 
never sleeps!’ Let’s visit one and find out about the work people do in 
the city. Are they employed by someone or are they self-employed? How 
do they organise themselves? And do they have similar employment 
and earning opportunities?
we turned the corner onto the main 
street we saw that it was already 
buzzing with activity. The vegetable 
vendor was busy arranging tomatoes, 
carrots and cucumbers in baskets at 
her stall so that people could see what 
Unit_IV Ch 8.indd   70 14-11-2022   04:34:13 PM
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 3


Chapter 8
Urban 
Livelihoods
1. What do you see in 
this illustration?
2. You have already 
read about the work 
that people do in rural 
areas. Now compare 
the work that people 
in this illustration are 
doing with the work 
that people do in rural 
areas. 
3. Some parts of  the 
city are different  
from others. What 
differences do 
you notice in this 
illustration?
Unit_IV Ch 8.indd   69 14-11-2022   04:34:12 PM
Rationalised 2023-24
70 / Social and Political Life
Working on the Street 
T
his is the city where my cousin 
lives. I’ve been here only a few 
times. It is very big. Once, when I came 
here, my  cousin took me around. We  
left the house early in the morning. As 
There are more than five thousand towns and twenty seven big cities 
in India. Big cities like Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata etc. have more 
than a million people living and working here. They say that ‘the city 
never sleeps!’ Let’s visit one and find out about the work people do in 
the city. Are they employed by someone or are they self-employed? How 
do they organise themselves? And do they have similar employment 
and earning opportunities?
we turned the corner onto the main 
street we saw that it was already 
buzzing with activity. The vegetable 
vendor was busy arranging tomatoes, 
carrots and cucumbers in baskets at 
her stall so that people could see what 
Unit_IV Ch 8.indd   70 14-11-2022   04:34:13 PM
Rationalised 2023-24
Urban Livelihoods / 71 
she had to sell. Next to her stall was a 
lovely, colourful one that sold all kinds 
of flowers. 
We bought a red rose and a yellow 
rose. On the pavement opposite we 
saw a person selling newspapers with  
a small crowd of people around him. 
Everyone wanted to read the news!  
Buses whizzed past and there 
were auto-rickshaws filled 
with school-children. Nearby, 
under a tree, a cobbler sat 
taking his tools and materials 
out of a small tin box. Next to 
him the roadside barber had 
begun his work: he already 
had a customer who wanted 
an early-morning shave! 
A little way down the  
road, a woman was pushing 
along a cart with all kinds 
of plastic  bottles, boxes,  
hairpins, clips etc. in it while 
another person on a cycle trolley was 
carrying vegetables to sell to people in 
their houses. 
We came to a place where  
rickshaws were standing in a row 
waiting for customers. We decided to 
take one to the market, which was about 
two kilometres down the road. 
Bachchu Manjhi – A Cycle-Rickshaw 
Puller
I come from a village in Bihar where I 
worked as a mason. My wife and three 
children live in the village. We don’t own 
land. In the village I did not get masonry 
work regularly. The income that I earned 
was not enough for our family.
After I reached this city, I bought an 
old cycle rickshaw and paid for it in 
instalments. This was many years ago. 
I come to the bus stop every morning and 
take the customers wherever they want 
to go. I work till 8.30 in the evening. I 
take rides of up to 6 kilometres in the 
surrounding area. Each customer gives 
me Rs. 10-30 per trip depending on the 
distance. When I’m ill I can’t do this work, 
so on those days I don’t earn anything.
I stay with my friends in a rented room. 
They work in a nearby factory. I earn 
between Rs. 200-300 every day, out of 
which I spend Rs. 100-150 on food and 
rent. The rest I save for my family. I visit 
my village two or three times a year to see 
my family. Though my family survives 
on the money I send, my wife also earns  
from agricultural work that she gets once 
in a while.
Unit_IV Ch 8.indd   71 14-11-2022   04:34:15 PM
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 4


Chapter 8
Urban 
Livelihoods
1. What do you see in 
this illustration?
2. You have already 
read about the work 
that people do in rural 
areas. Now compare 
the work that people 
in this illustration are 
doing with the work 
that people do in rural 
areas. 
3. Some parts of  the 
city are different  
from others. What 
differences do 
you notice in this 
illustration?
Unit_IV Ch 8.indd   69 14-11-2022   04:34:12 PM
Rationalised 2023-24
70 / Social and Political Life
Working on the Street 
T
his is the city where my cousin 
lives. I’ve been here only a few 
times. It is very big. Once, when I came 
here, my  cousin took me around. We  
left the house early in the morning. As 
There are more than five thousand towns and twenty seven big cities 
in India. Big cities like Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata etc. have more 
than a million people living and working here. They say that ‘the city 
never sleeps!’ Let’s visit one and find out about the work people do in 
the city. Are they employed by someone or are they self-employed? How 
do they organise themselves? And do they have similar employment 
and earning opportunities?
we turned the corner onto the main 
street we saw that it was already 
buzzing with activity. The vegetable 
vendor was busy arranging tomatoes, 
carrots and cucumbers in baskets at 
her stall so that people could see what 
Unit_IV Ch 8.indd   70 14-11-2022   04:34:13 PM
Rationalised 2023-24
Urban Livelihoods / 71 
she had to sell. Next to her stall was a 
lovely, colourful one that sold all kinds 
of flowers. 
We bought a red rose and a yellow 
rose. On the pavement opposite we 
saw a person selling newspapers with  
a small crowd of people around him. 
Everyone wanted to read the news!  
Buses whizzed past and there 
were auto-rickshaws filled 
with school-children. Nearby, 
under a tree, a cobbler sat 
taking his tools and materials 
out of a small tin box. Next to 
him the roadside barber had 
begun his work: he already 
had a customer who wanted 
an early-morning shave! 
A little way down the  
road, a woman was pushing 
along a cart with all kinds 
of plastic  bottles, boxes,  
hairpins, clips etc. in it while 
another person on a cycle trolley was 
carrying vegetables to sell to people in 
their houses. 
We came to a place where  
rickshaws were standing in a row 
waiting for customers. We decided to 
take one to the market, which was about 
two kilometres down the road. 
Bachchu Manjhi – A Cycle-Rickshaw 
Puller
I come from a village in Bihar where I 
worked as a mason. My wife and three 
children live in the village. We don’t own 
land. In the village I did not get masonry 
work regularly. The income that I earned 
was not enough for our family.
After I reached this city, I bought an 
old cycle rickshaw and paid for it in 
instalments. This was many years ago. 
I come to the bus stop every morning and 
take the customers wherever they want 
to go. I work till 8.30 in the evening. I 
take rides of up to 6 kilometres in the 
surrounding area. Each customer gives 
me Rs. 10-30 per trip depending on the 
distance. When I’m ill I can’t do this work, 
so on those days I don’t earn anything.
I stay with my friends in a rented room. 
They work in a nearby factory. I earn 
between Rs. 200-300 every day, out of 
which I spend Rs. 100-150 on food and 
rent. The rest I save for my family. I visit 
my village two or three times a year to see 
my family. Though my family survives 
on the money I send, my wife also earns  
from agricultural work that she gets once 
in a while.
Unit_IV Ch 8.indd   71 14-11-2022   04:34:15 PM
Rationalised 2023-24
72 / Social and Political Life
Like Bachchu Manjhi a large 
number of people in the city work on 
the streets. In a survey of Ahmedabad 
city it was found 
that 12 per cent of 
all the workers in 
the city were people  
working on the street. 
They sometimes sell 
things or repair them 
or provide a service.
They work on their 
own. They are not 
employed by anyone 
and therefore have to 
organise their  own 
work. They  have to 
plan how much to 
purchase, as well as 
where and how to 
set up their shops. 
Their shops are 
usually temporary 
structures:
sometimes just some 
boards or papers 
spread over discarded 
boxes or maybe a canvas sheet hung 
up on a few poles. They may also use 
their own carts or simply a plastic 
sheet spread on the pavement. They 
can be asked to dismantle their shops 
at any time by the police. They have 
no security. There are certain parts of 
the city where these hawkers are not 
allowed to enter.
Vendors sell things that are often 
prepared at home by their families 
who purchase, clean, sort and make 
them ready to sell. For example, those 
who sell food or snacks on the street, 
prepare most of these at home. 
1. Why did Bachchu Manjhi come to 
the city? 
2. Why can’t Bachchu Manjhi live with 
his family?
3. Talk to a vegetable vendor or hawker 
and find out how do they organise  
their work, their way of preparing, 
purchasing, selling etc.
4. Bachchu Manjhi has to think twice  
before taking a day off from work. Why?
Often workers who make a living in the city are forced to set up their 
homes on the street as well. Below is a space where several workers 
leave their belongings during the day and cook their meals at night.
Unit_IV Ch 8.indd   72 14-11-2022   04:34:15 PM
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 5


Chapter 8
Urban 
Livelihoods
1. What do you see in 
this illustration?
2. You have already 
read about the work 
that people do in rural 
areas. Now compare 
the work that people 
in this illustration are 
doing with the work 
that people do in rural 
areas. 
3. Some parts of  the 
city are different  
from others. What 
differences do 
you notice in this 
illustration?
Unit_IV Ch 8.indd   69 14-11-2022   04:34:12 PM
Rationalised 2023-24
70 / Social and Political Life
Working on the Street 
T
his is the city where my cousin 
lives. I’ve been here only a few 
times. It is very big. Once, when I came 
here, my  cousin took me around. We  
left the house early in the morning. As 
There are more than five thousand towns and twenty seven big cities 
in India. Big cities like Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata etc. have more 
than a million people living and working here. They say that ‘the city 
never sleeps!’ Let’s visit one and find out about the work people do in 
the city. Are they employed by someone or are they self-employed? How 
do they organise themselves? And do they have similar employment 
and earning opportunities?
we turned the corner onto the main 
street we saw that it was already 
buzzing with activity. The vegetable 
vendor was busy arranging tomatoes, 
carrots and cucumbers in baskets at 
her stall so that people could see what 
Unit_IV Ch 8.indd   70 14-11-2022   04:34:13 PM
Rationalised 2023-24
Urban Livelihoods / 71 
she had to sell. Next to her stall was a 
lovely, colourful one that sold all kinds 
of flowers. 
We bought a red rose and a yellow 
rose. On the pavement opposite we 
saw a person selling newspapers with  
a small crowd of people around him. 
Everyone wanted to read the news!  
Buses whizzed past and there 
were auto-rickshaws filled 
with school-children. Nearby, 
under a tree, a cobbler sat 
taking his tools and materials 
out of a small tin box. Next to 
him the roadside barber had 
begun his work: he already 
had a customer who wanted 
an early-morning shave! 
A little way down the  
road, a woman was pushing 
along a cart with all kinds 
of plastic  bottles, boxes,  
hairpins, clips etc. in it while 
another person on a cycle trolley was 
carrying vegetables to sell to people in 
their houses. 
We came to a place where  
rickshaws were standing in a row 
waiting for customers. We decided to 
take one to the market, which was about 
two kilometres down the road. 
Bachchu Manjhi – A Cycle-Rickshaw 
Puller
I come from a village in Bihar where I 
worked as a mason. My wife and three 
children live in the village. We don’t own 
land. In the village I did not get masonry 
work regularly. The income that I earned 
was not enough for our family.
After I reached this city, I bought an 
old cycle rickshaw and paid for it in 
instalments. This was many years ago. 
I come to the bus stop every morning and 
take the customers wherever they want 
to go. I work till 8.30 in the evening. I 
take rides of up to 6 kilometres in the 
surrounding area. Each customer gives 
me Rs. 10-30 per trip depending on the 
distance. When I’m ill I can’t do this work, 
so on those days I don’t earn anything.
I stay with my friends in a rented room. 
They work in a nearby factory. I earn 
between Rs. 200-300 every day, out of 
which I spend Rs. 100-150 on food and 
rent. The rest I save for my family. I visit 
my village two or three times a year to see 
my family. Though my family survives 
on the money I send, my wife also earns  
from agricultural work that she gets once 
in a while.
Unit_IV Ch 8.indd   71 14-11-2022   04:34:15 PM
Rationalised 2023-24
72 / Social and Political Life
Like Bachchu Manjhi a large 
number of people in the city work on 
the streets. In a survey of Ahmedabad 
city it was found 
that 12 per cent of 
all the workers in 
the city were people  
working on the street. 
They sometimes sell 
things or repair them 
or provide a service.
They work on their 
own. They are not 
employed by anyone 
and therefore have to 
organise their  own 
work. They  have to 
plan how much to 
purchase, as well as 
where and how to 
set up their shops. 
Their shops are 
usually temporary 
structures:
sometimes just some 
boards or papers 
spread over discarded 
boxes or maybe a canvas sheet hung 
up on a few poles. They may also use 
their own carts or simply a plastic 
sheet spread on the pavement. They 
can be asked to dismantle their shops 
at any time by the police. They have 
no security. There are certain parts of 
the city where these hawkers are not 
allowed to enter.
Vendors sell things that are often 
prepared at home by their families 
who purchase, clean, sort and make 
them ready to sell. For example, those 
who sell food or snacks on the street, 
prepare most of these at home. 
1. Why did Bachchu Manjhi come to 
the city? 
2. Why can’t Bachchu Manjhi live with 
his family?
3. Talk to a vegetable vendor or hawker 
and find out how do they organise  
their work, their way of preparing, 
purchasing, selling etc.
4. Bachchu Manjhi has to think twice  
before taking a day off from work. Why?
Often workers who make a living in the city are forced to set up their 
homes on the street as well. Below is a space where several workers 
leave their belongings during the day and cook their meals at night.
Unit_IV Ch 8.indd   72 14-11-2022   04:34:15 PM
Rationalised 2023-24
Urban Livelihoods / 73 
There are almost one crore ‘street 
vendors’ in the country working in urban 
areas. Street vending was till recently 
looked upon only as an obstruction to 
traffic and to people walking. However 
with the effort of many organisations it 
is now recognised as a general benefit 
and as a right of people to earn their 
livelihood. The government is thinking  
about modifying the law that banned 
street vendors, so that they have a 
place to work and that there is also a 
free flow of traffic and people. Hawking 
zones have been suggested for towns 
and cities. It has also been suggested 
that mobile vendors should be allowed 
to move around freely. Hawkers need 
to be part of committees that are set 
up to take these and other decisions 
relating to them.
In the Market
When we reached the market the shops 
were just beginning to open. But the 
place was already crowded because 
of the festival season. There were rows 
and rows of shops selling sweets, toys, 
clothes, footwear, utensils, electronic 
goods, etc. There was a dentist’s clinic 
also at one end.
My cousin had an appointment with 
the dentist. We went there first so that 
we would not miss our turn. We had 
to wait for a while in a room before 
she was called inside. The dentist 
examined her and asked her to come 
back the following day to get a cavity in 
her tooth filled. My cousin was scared 
because she thought the process would 
be painful and was upset that she had 
allowed her teeth to go bad.
From the dental clinic she took me 
to a new garment showroom because I 
wanted to buy some readymade clothes.
The showroom had three-floors. Each 
floor had different types of clothes. We 
went to the third floor where clothes for 
girls were kept. 
Harpreet and Vandana: 
Businesspersons
My father and uncle worked in a small 
shop. During festival times and on 
Sundays my mother and I helped them 
in the shop. I started working there 
only after I completed my college. 
(Harpreet)
We opened this showroom some 
years ago. I’m a dress designer. Our 
business has changed. These days 
people prefer to buy readymade clothes, 
rather than have them stitched. The 
trend these days is for readymade 
garments. You also need an attractive 
display for them. (Vandana)
Unit_IV Ch 8.indd   73 14-11-2022   04:34:16 PM
Rationalised 2023-24
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FAQs on NCERT Textbook: Urban Livelihoods - Indian Polity for UPSC CSE

1. What are urban livelihoods?
Ans. Urban livelihoods refer to the means of earning a living in a city or town. It includes various occupations and sources of income available to people living in urban areas, such as employment in formal and informal sectors, self-employment, and entrepreneurship.
2. What are the challenges faced by urban dwellers in earning a livelihood?
Ans. Urban dwellers face several challenges in earning a livelihood, such as competition for jobs, lack of skills and education, discrimination, and inadequate access to resources and services. Additionally, urban areas are prone to economic and environmental shocks, which can further exacerbate the challenges faced by vulnerable groups.
3. How do urban livelihoods contribute to the overall development of a city?
Ans. Urban livelihoods play a crucial role in the overall development of a city. They contribute to economic growth by creating employment opportunities and generating income for individuals and households. Additionally, urban livelihoods help in reducing poverty, promoting social inclusion, and enhancing the overall quality of life in urban areas.
4. What is the difference between formal and informal sectors of urban livelihoods?
Ans. Formal sector urban livelihoods refer to jobs or occupations that are regulated by the government and provide social security benefits such as pension, health insurance, and job security. Informal sector urban livelihoods, on the other hand, refer to jobs or occupations that are not regulated by the government and do not provide social security benefits. The informal sector includes activities such as street vending, domestic work, and small-scale businesses.
5. How can urban livelihoods be made sustainable and inclusive?
Ans. To make urban livelihoods sustainable and inclusive, there is a need for policies and programs that promote equitable access to resources and services, such as education, training, healthcare, and finance. Additionally, there should be efforts to create an enabling environment for entrepreneurship and innovation. Sustainable urban livelihoods also require addressing environmental concerns, such as reducing carbon emissions and promoting renewable energy sources. Finally, there should be a focus on social protection programs that provide a safety net for vulnerable groups, such as informal workers and low-income households.
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