Author: Vipin Khokad
The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Vending) Bill, a milestone towards legal recognition of street vendors, was introduced in the Loksabha on 6 sep 2013. It became possible owing to cherished efforts of institutions namely, Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI). National Advisory Council also picked up the issue and drafted legislation. The nodal ministry –Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (HUPA)was also in favor but the crux was that Street Vending comes under the local bodies and hence only State Government could influence these bodies. However, it was argued that Street Vending is a livelihood issue not an urban development issue. Another important legislation namely, MGNREGA, was also passed as a central legislation because it deals with livelihood though it is operated through local bodies. The law for Street Vending could be regarded in similar manner. This led to final drafting of the bill. It was introduced in the Loksabha on the last day of monsoon session of Parliament in 2013.
Why Street Vendors?
Of late, Street Vendors constitute about 2.5 percent of total Indian population. Cities like Mumbai and Delhi each has about 2.5 lakh Street Vendors at present and their number is increasing day by day significantly.
Street Vendors are mostly the persons who come from rural areas in search of livelihood. Such persons generally possess low skills. Street Vending also does not require very much high skills and high input as well. So it is most likely for such persons to take Street Vending as profession.
Street Vendors serve the society in the following ways:
- Street Vendors provide market for the Small Scale Industries namely, Food items, Utensils, and Clothes etc. As for Small Scale Industries owing to financial circumstances it is not possible to follow the selling strategies of the so called big brands. So Street Vendors enable them to sell their products.
- Street Vendors provide goods at cheaper prices which is significant from the point of view of low income group of the society as they can’t afford the exorbitant branded products.
Besides the above, there are many other ways in which street vendors serve the society. It behooves us to take ample care of so called marginalized section of the society which was hitherto in eclipse.
Main features of the bill:-
The bill provides for the establishment of a Town Vending Committee. Town Vending Committee (TVC) is the central body at the local level. Municipal or Chief Executive Officer of local body is the chairperson of TVC. Representatives of Street Vendors will comprise 40 percent of total membership while civil society representatives will comprise 10 percent of total membership. The remaining 50 percent will have representatives of different government stake holders such as, police, traffic police, municipal authorities etc.The important thing is the bill is the substantive representation of street vendors in decision making process which was hitherto taken up by local authorities or state government.
TVC has to perform various functions the most important of which are being mentioned below:
- To conduct a survey of existing street vendors.
- To decide on the areas of street vending.
- To ensure that all vendors are accommodated on the pavements or other places selected for the purpose.
- To issue certificates of vending to vendors identified in survey.
- To decide on the amount to be collected as fees/tax from vendors.
And besides a host of other activities have to be performed by TVC. The bill has various other provisions which are as follows:
- In case the number of vendors in a zone exceeds the holding capacity of the zone, the vendors will be provided space through draws of lots. Those who do not get place will be accommodated in adjoining zone.
- The person who is awarded the certificate alone has the right to vend. The person cannot give the certificate to others except ill or physically disabled. In case of illness or physical inability the children or spouse may be allowed to vend.
- The bill prescribes the minimum age for vending as 14 years.
- There must not be any other source of income besides vending.
- The bill provides for prevention of renting and subletting.
- Hitherto it was seen that in case of eviction and confiscation of property of street vendors even the well off vendors had been forced to the stage of penury as the fines of recovery were more than even the value of goods. This point has been given ample importance in the bill and in any case the fines will not be more than the value of goods.
- Relocation of vendors must be based on genuine reasons and vendors will have to be provided alternative sites. In case if vendors refuses to move, a notice will be issued to move within a specified period. If the above fails, the vendor will be fined Rs.250 per day. In case if it also does not work then the eviction will be the last resort and authorities may forcibly evict the vendor.
- The bill also provides for signed seizure list which was hitherto absent.
- There is also procedure for confiscated items. In case of perishable items –the items must be returned on the day of eviction and in case of non perishable items-the items must be returned within two days.
- Every city town will have Grievance Redressal Committee which will adjudicate the cases related to vending. The committee will consist of a former civil judge or judicial magistrate, who will chair the committee, and two other members. In case of disagreement with the decisions of the committee, the local authorities may be approached. Moreover, the bill also provides that every vendor must be heard before any decision is made.
- The bill prescribes that TVC and planning authorities will prepare a plan for street vending every five year for promoting vending and prevent encroachment.
- Hitherto it was seen that police enjoyed greater power on the grounds of section 34 of Indian Police Service. According to this, any person can be removed by police on the grounds of ferrying goods in public places. This point has been given due importance and section 27 has been added in the bill which makes section 34 of Indian Police Service redundant i.e. street vendors can’t be prevented from vending in public places.
Besides the protection the bill also seeks to promote different aspects of lives of vendor’s i.e. social security, insurance, welfare, and capacity building etc so that street vendors can avail themselves of the bill in true sense and can serve the society better.
Although there are many provisions but still it has obvious loopholes which are being mentioned below.
- The bill has kept railways outside the purview of vending. Hitherto vendors have been an integral part of railway journey. In most of the railway stations their place has been taken up by ‘branded’ kiosks such as Café Day or similar ventures. The prices of drinks are at least three times what the vendors charged. Quite similarly, the food served specially on the long distance trains has become unaffordable even for middle class family. Licensed vendors could have provided such facilities at comparatively lower prices. So both vendors and passengers will have to bear the brunt of this.
- Street vendors are asked to keep their vicinity clean, but a major problem, especially for women vendors, is dearth of toilets in most of the areas. The bill could have provided some provisions regarding this and the expanses could have been recovered from the fees charged from the vendors.
For the country, which seeks social justice as its major objective, it must be a crying shame that such an important section of the society have been neglected in its entirety and seemed to have been fallen victim to the administration. From the above perspective the bill seeks to redress the balance. However, suffice it to say that despite a few loopholes the bill seems to fulfill the aspirations of vendors and seems to be pro-vendor.