Convention vows to intensify agitation for effective and comprehensive central law and against FDI entry into retail
Convention also calls upon vendors to vote for
Pro-vendor and pro-labour candidates in upcoming state assembly elections
City level street vendor federations would be formed
Surat, 12 October:
A large number of street vendors and their representatives from Surat and other parts of Gujarat on Friday joined a state level convention named as Lari Galla Jagriti Sabha and vowed to intensify agitation and advocacy efforts to get an effective and comprehensive central law to protect their right to livelihood, social security and human rights. They also protested the UPA Government decision to allow FDI in retail.
The convention which witnessed an impressive presence of women street vendors expressed anguish over the attitudes of state government and municipal bodies towards informal workers and called upon the street vendors and other sections of working poor to get united and federalized for successful struggles to win their rights. The convention announced that the vendors would vote for only pro-vendor and pro-labour candidates in the upcoming state assembly elections. .
Addressing the convention, NASVI national coordinator Arbind Singh said, “the sustained agitation of NASVI for getting a comprehensive central law in favour of street vendors has forced the central government to introduce the Street Vendors Bill in the Lok Sabha. We believe that the Bill has many key provisions which can go a long way to ensure that the vendors get a secured and dignified livelihood, provided some major shortcomings are corrected/rectified immediately as the shortcomings defeat the very purpose of the proposed legislation”.
About shortcomings of the Bill introduced in Lok Sabha on 6 September, NASVI coordinator elaborated on how the current Bill leaves a lot with delegated legislation. He said, “Most of the issues are left to the Scheme that is to be framed by the local authorities beginning with the manner of registration to the entire thing. Knowing the power relations at the city level, it is important that the Bill provides provisions ensuring that the Act shall ‘protect the rights of urban street vendors and regulate street vending’ rather than prohibit and curb street vending”
He quoted October, 2010 landmark judgment of the Supreme Court wherein the apex court had ruled, “…The hawkers’ and squatter or vendors right to carry on hawking has been recognized as fundamental right under Article 19(1)(g). At the same time, the right of the commuters to move freely and use the roads without any impediment is also a fundamental right under Article 19(1)(d).These two apparently conflicting rights must be harmonized and regulated by subjecting them to reasonable restrictions only under a law. The question is, therefore, vitally important to a very large section of people, mostly ordinary men and women. Such an issue cannot be left to be decided by schemes and which are monitored by this Court from time to time.”
NASVI national coordinator said that another major shortcoming of the Bill was that it excluded vendors earning their livelihood near railway stations or on railway platforms.
He revealed that just yesterday he met the chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Urban Development in Delhi and apprised him with NASVI points of amendments to the Bill. “We also are approaching the MPs of several political parties and convincing them to raise amendments to the Bill and ensure enactment of a comprehensive law”, he said.
Describing decision to allow the FDI in retail as national disaster, NASVI coordinator said that it would further threaten the livelihood of street vendors. Instead of eliminating middlemen, a new class of middlemen patronized by Walmart type sharks would emerge and it would fleece all, be it the farmers, vendors or other small retailers. He called upon the street vendors of Gujarat to get organized against the onslaughts of multinational retailers’ hyper markets.
About municipal governance in Gujarat, he said, “The state government does need to ensure that their municipal bodies set examples of pro-poor responsive governance.” He added that Gujarat was one of those few states which had not implemented the 2004 National Policy for Street Vendors properly.
Expressing anguish over the fact that working poor contribute so much to local economies and provide cheap and affordable services to society, but their growth suffers, Mr. Singh called upon the street vendors to get organized and federalized, develop leadership and negotiation skills, engage effectively with government authorities and struggle collectively to win their rights.
Presiding over the convention, trade union leader Naishadh Desai charged the state government with neglecting the issues and concerns of informal workers. He protested the non-responsiveness of municipal bodies and said that the street vendors often faced victimization, terror and loot of municipal bodies and police in several parts of Gujarat.
Speaking at the convention, academician and labour rights activist Professor Babu Desai said, “Without integrating street vendors with city and town development plans, the all talk of making city/town beautiful, regulated, prosperous and vibrant would remain a hoax.”
The convention was addressed among others by Shramjeevi Sewalaya general secretary Mohanbhai Dabuwala, Gujarat Shramik Hawkers Sangathan president Ganpatrao Kale, Jagte Raho India chief Jaylal, Self Employed Women Association leader Champaben Patni and several street vendor leaders of Nabsari, Vododra, Bharuch and Bhavnagar.
The convention was conducted by NASVI program manager Ranjit Abhigyan.
Post- convention, a delegation comprising of NASVI coordinator Arbind Singh, SEWA leader Champa Ben Patni, Gujarat Shramik Hawkers Sangathan president Ganpatrao Kale, Jagte Raho India president Jaylal and NASVI representative Ranjit Abhigyan called on the Surat Police Commissioner with the demand to put halt on continuing harassment, victimization and eviction of vendors of different areas including Sardar Market of the city.