Wide ranging changes in political economy and policy environment in 1990s posed several challenges. One of such challenges was countering the growing marginalization of urban poor like street vendors and struggling as well as advocating with governance institutions demanding effective policy, legislations and rights based social protection programs for vulnerable urban groups.
NASVI began its journey in 1998 at that critical juncture.
It was face to face with the challenges coming in the wake of economic reforms and urbanization.
Large scale Organizing and Networking
Efforts of networking running for years right from 1998 to 2003 yielded positive results and a large number of street vendor organizations, community based groups and trade unions across different states started joining the platform of NASVI. NASVI took a formal shape in 2003. Large scale coming together of membership organizations of the poor enabled NASVI to trigger the process of organizing and simultaneously raise the pitch of advocacy with urban local bodies, state governments and national government.
Struggle to Reclaim Rights and Entitlements through Court
Process of organizing also capacitated the vendor organizations to move courts to reclaim their rights and entitlements. Many judicial announcements came up in favour of street vendors.
National Policy for Street Vendors
Nationwide mobilization of vendors influenced the Government of India to bring in National Policy for Street Vendors. On 20 January, 2004, the Government of India formulated the National Policy for Street Vendors. It was revised later in 2009. The National Policy gave visibility to vendors’ issues and vendors’ organizations started mounting pressure on municipal bodies to implement policy in letter and spirit
2004- 2009: Mixed Bag of Results
- Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation with support from NASVI affiliates implemented National Policy and created 52 Vending Zones in the city
- Mumbai vendors waged relentless struggles against loot and torture of municipal and police personnel
- During struggles, three vendors sacrificed their lives in Lucknow, Patiala and Gwalior fighting against the municipal bodies
- A few state governments did demonstrate their political will and policy implantation picked up, especially in Madhya Pradesh.
- Ministry of Food Processing and Industries came up with policy and scheme for street food vendors
- Ministry of Labour and Employment extended Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna (RSBY) for street vendors
Struggle for Policy Implementation and Central Law
As the implementation of policy had not been satisfactory in several states, NASVI in 2009 decided to fight for both policy implantation as well as enactment of central law to protect livelihood and social security of street vendors.
In 2010-11, NASVI Rath Campaign for policy implementation and law making yielded results in several states and Rajasthan, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttarakhand Governments enacted laws/policies/Rules in favour of street vendors.
October 2010 verdict of Supreme Court of India came as a shot in the arm for NASVI. The Apex Court said in its verdict t that the vendors had fundamental right to carry on their businesses under Article 19 (1) g of the Indian Constitution and the said right must be protected by a law. The apex court directed the appropriate government to enact law for vendors by 30 June, 2011.
Struggle for Central Law: Chronicle of major initiatives
Close on the heels of Supreme Court verdict, NASVI started approaching the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MHUPA) to press for central law. A ten member NASVI delegation met Kumari Selja, Minister of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation on 24 November, 2010 and put forth the demands.
Here are some major initiatives:
- Post card Campaign in February- March, 2011. More than one lakh post cards were sent to Union Cabinet Minister of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation., Kumari Selja demanding central law.
- NASVI took up the issue of central law with UPA President Sonia Gandhi led National Advisory Council (NAC). It raised the pitch of its campaign both on advocacy front and on streets. The NAC deliberated on the issue in its several meetings. In May, 2011, it recommended for a central law to the Government of India
- Vendor organizations across India posted memorandum in June, 2011to the Prime Minister demanding early initiation of process for law making. Hundreds of petitions/memoranda were sent to the Prime Minister Office.
- NASVI urged all its member organizations to organize protests in their cities on 14 July, 2011 mounting pressure on the government to initiate process of law making. The protests were held in at least 30 cities.
- First Turning Point: On 18 August, 2011 thousands of vendors gheraoed the parliament demanding central law and a 7 member NASVI delegation met MHUPA Minister with a 10 point Charter of Demands. The minister agreed that the problems of vendors could only be solved through a law.
- In October, 2011, Ministry of Law sought the opinion from the Attorney General of India. The Attorney General gave his opinion in favour of central law for street vendors in November, 2011.
- NASVI organized a huge national convention of street vendors on cities for all theme on 19 November, 2011 in Delhi. MHUPA Minister Kumari Selja inaugurated it and announced that the government would bring in central law for street vendors as well as a scheme in 12 Five Year Plan.
- The process of drafting law started and Draft Bill got prepared. NASVI provided vital inputs to make Draft Bill an effective one.
- In July, 2012, the Law Ministry cleared the Draft Street Vendors’ Bill
- On 17 August, 2012, the Union Cabinet approved the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill
- On 18 August, 2012, NASVI called for nationwide celebration hailing the Union Cabinet approval to the Bill.
- Second Turning Point: On 6 September, 2012, the Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha
- The Bill had many key provisions enabling vendors to get access to rights and entitlements, but also had several shortcomings. When the street vendors came to know about the shortcomings, they raised their voices and points of amendment to the Bill.
- Subsequently, the Bill was sent to the Standing Committee of the Parliament
- In November and December, 2012, NASVI presented its concerns and points of amendments to the Bill before the Standing Committee.
- On 13 March, 2013, a huge Street Vendors Parliament took place in Delhi. On the day, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Urban Development tabled its report on the floor of the houses.
- On 1 May, 2013, NASVI organized ‘Dialogue of Street Vendors with Political Leaders and Civil Society Representatives to Convert Street Vendors’ Bill into Act’ in Delhi. On the day, the union cabinet approved the revamped Street Vendors Bill.
- In 2013 August, the street vendors across states again sent thousands of postcards and letters to the Congress president and the UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi urging her to ensure the passage of the bill.
- Third Turning Point: On 6 September, 2013, the bill was passed by the Lok Sabha.
- In last six months, NASVI kept sustaining the momentum and campaigned vigorously to ensure the passage of the bill by the Rajya Sabha.
- Last month, on 31 January, NASVI again organized a huge ‘Rehri Patri Sansad’ at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. It was addressed by Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.
- On 3 February, thousands of street vendors had also marched to the residence of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi demanding passage of the bill by the Rajya Sabha and end to rampant extortion and terror of police and municipal agencies.
- Two weeks back, NASVI had also released an open letter to the heads of political parties urging them to ensure that the bill is passed by the Rajya Sabha.
- On 11 February, NASVI delegation also called on Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy and minister of youth affairs and sports Jitendra Singh urging them to ensure passage of the bill.
- On 16 February, NASVI called for indefinite hunger strike at Jantar Mantar in Delhi demanding passage of the bill. Thirty street vendor leaders across cities started their fast which continued for four days. Thousands of street vendors reached the venue of the fast in support of the fasting street vendor leaders.
- Major Milestone Reached: Amidst raging protest campaigns and mounting pressure on the political parties, on 19 February, 2014, the Rajya Sabha also passed the Street Vendors’ Bill and thus Indian Parliament listened to the voices of street vendors of India.
A momentous phase is over….Up next new rounds of organizing and struggle for proper implementation of the central legislation.