Urban Street Vendor Bill: Possibilities and Lacunae

By Alok Pandey and Suman Bhanoo, PRIA

Street vendors form a very important section of the informal sector in the country.  As per National Policy on Urban Street Vendors, 2009, it is estimated that in several cities street vendors count for about 2 per cent of the population. Street vending is not only important source of self-employment to the poor in urban area but also a means to provide‘ affordable’ as well as ‘convenient’ services to a majority of the urban population and contribute in economic growth of city. It wouldn’t be wrong if we say, directly or indirectly street vendors assist the government in combating unemployment and poverty. Public authorities usually regard them as a nuisance and as encroachers of roadways and do not appreciate the valuable services that they provide to urban population.

              To keep in view Union Cabinet has approved a legislation to protect the livelihood of street vendors and provide them more legal vending space in urban areas. Once it becomes law, street vendors hope it could shield them from unabated harassment and extortion by police and municipal officials. Anxious to regain confidence of aam aadmi ahead of 2014 general elections, the housing and urban poverty alleviation (HUPA) ministry has fixed the norms for permissible street vendors or hawkers in any city, zone or ward at 2.5% of the respective population. Once the new norms are applicable, Mumbai will have around 4.6 lakh legal vending space for hawkers, Delhi (4.07 lakh), Kolkata (3.5 lakh) and Chennai (2.17 lakh).

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Source: Census, 2011

Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation minister Mr. Ajay Makan is pushing hard to introduce the bill in Parliament at the earliest. The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2013, which was reworked after recommendations of the standing committee, aims to take away arbitrary powers of civic authorities and police and vested the power to frame rules and regulate street vending in the hands of town vending committee, which would have majority of members from among street vendors. The town vending committees would have 50% representatives from government, which would encompass police, local administration and officers from health division. While remaining 40% representation of street vendor associations and 10% of their elected representatives of vendor organizations. The Bill will enable street vendors to get registered and work with dignity. The Bill requires every street vendor to be registered with the town vending committee. Each registered street vendor will be given an identity card. The newspaper clipping is attached herewith

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This bill will surely benefit larger section of urban strata. According to Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, there are 10 million street vendors in the country. Mumbai alone accounts for 250,000 street vendors, while Delhi has 200,000. There are over 150,000 street vendors in Kolkata and over 100,000 in Ahmedabad. Due to this bill 4.5 crore population of cities will get direct benefit.

  No doubt bill has lots of positive things for street vendors which will prevent them from day to day harassment. Parallely there are some lacunae in proposed billas per the bill, street vendors or hawkers in any city, zone or ward would be 2.5% of the respective population.

However, we can’t standardize the percentage of hawkers as the 2.5% of populations. Every city, zone and ward has different geographic and demographic characteristics. We can’t compare Delhi with Mumbai in terms of population, area and arrangement, because both cities have different structures and different requirement. The city’s development is another important factor that should be considered. There is a sheer need to consider city’s growth pattern, whether it is growing vertically and horizontally.  One might hypothize that if city growth is taking place horizontally then it requires more vendors and if growth pattern is vertical then there is comparatively less need of vendors.

Let’s hope that the proposed law may not end up being just a cosmetic law which cannot ensure protection of the rights of the marginalized professionals.

                         

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