Growing Cities, Marginalized Vendors
Need of Comprehensive Central Law
13 December, 2012,
Main Lawns, VP House,
Rafi Marg, New Delhi
Greetings from NASVI!
National Association of Street Vendors of India [NASVI], a federation of more than 715 street vendor organizations and trade unions across 23 states with a membership of more than 5, 00,000, is engaged in raising the issues of street vendors and has been advocating with different institutions of governance for protection of right to livelihood and social security.
Since 1998, NASVI has been advocating for better policies and laws for street vendors and for the implementation of those at municipal levels. NASVI has also consistently made efforts to strengthen the street vendor organizations across the country and enabled them to effectively pursue for representative voice and livelihood right.
Of late, NASVI campaigns and advocacy efforts have yielded positive result and after almost two years’ endeavour, the Government of India has finally introduced the much awaited Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill 2012 in the Lok Sabha. The Bill has many provisions that can go a long way ensuring the livelihood of street vendors, but also has some major shortcomings. Currently NASVI is engaging with Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, National Advisory Council, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Urban Development and Parliamentarians to ensure that the shortcomings are rectified and inclusive law gets enacted by parliament.
We strongly believe that the cities and towns are changing rapidly and several opportunities are coming up. However, many challenges have also surfaced. One of major challenges is to counter the growing marginalization of street vendors, a major section of working poor, through creating a supportive legal-administrative environment and putting in place efficient and responsive municipal governance.
13 December National Convention
NASVI organizes national convention every year wherein we bring together street vendors, municipal executives, labour experts, policy makers and parliamentarians to share the emerging issues related to policy and legislation. We celebrate the progress as well as successes of the efforts. Last year national convention was attended by more than 1200 street vendor representatives. Several union and state urban development ministers and municipal executives had also joined the convention as esteemed guests. .
This year NASVI is going to organize the National Convention in Delhi on 13 December, 2012. It would be attended by approximately 1500 street vendor representatives from different states of the country.
The key guests include
- Union Ministers
- State Urban Development Ministers
- Municipal Executives
- Labour Commissioners
- Livelihood and Labour Experts
- Representatives of development agencies
We feel humble inviting you to this national convention.
Urbanization of Poverty
The cities and towns in India have come a long way since the time of independence and so is the case with the millions of the poor and vulnerable living or reaching there. The current urban population in the country is estimated at more than 377 million. While the country’s population has increased by 17.64% in 2001-2011, the urban population grew by 31.80% in the same period as compared to rural areas growth at the rate of 12.18 %. India is getting urbanized at a faster rate and there is a projection that more than 40% of the country’s population will be living in urban areas by 2030. However the latest figures suggest that more than 31% of the Indian urban population is poor and that 25% of the country’s poor live in urban areas.
Street Vendors: Critical Mass of Urban Poor
Street vendors constitute a major mass of urban poor. As per government’s own admission in 2004, the total number of urban street vendors in the country was estimated at around 10 million. Some studies estimate that street vendors constitute approximately 2 per cent of the population of a metropolis. They represent the unorganized sector of retail industry and stand in sharp contrast to organized retailers like hypermarkets, supermarkets, big retail chains, etc.
Their contribution to society and economy
They contribute immensely to local and national economy, and provide cheap and affordable services to cross sections of society. And, in performing that, they stand quite independent as they do not depend on government subsidies or private charity. The total employment provided through street vending becomes massive when we consider the fact that they sustain certain industries by providing markets for their products. Many of the goods sold by street vendors, such as clothes and hosiery, leather and moulded plastic goods and household goods, are manufactured in small scale or home-based industries. These industries employ a large number of workers and they mainly rely on street vendors to market their products. In this way street vendors help sustain employment in these industries.
Contribution to Growth makes them Self Growth Deficient
Street vendors contribute to the growth of cities, but their own growth gets retarded. Absence of inclusive and effective legislation and vested urban interests perpetuate their marginalization and compound vulnerabilities. In all metropolises, municipal authorities and police personnel hand in glove with builders and mall- multiplex owners execute plans to chase away the poor and when they find it hard to do, they relocate the poor to the peripheries of the city where services are poor and livelihoods opportunities are scarce.
Human Rights Violation: A Pan- India Menace
Growing livelihood insecurity, atrocities of police-municipalities and attacks on human dignity are major cases/indicators of human rights violation. Street vendors face tremendous harassment and torture by municipal authorities and police personnel under the pretext of this or that incident of encroachment and security in almost all cities of India. The level of harassment is such that it undermines the fundamental right of the street vendors to carry on their businesses to earn a descent living as mandated by several international human rights treaties, international and national courts as well the Indian Constitution.
The Supreme Court of India has also time and again indicted the governments for trampling the human rights of street vendors. In October, 2010, the apex court ruled that the government must bring in effective law to protect the livelihood right of street vendors as existing policy has not ensured the protection of their basic right.
Several provisions of existing municipal laws and police acts do not recognize street Vending as legal entities and those provisions are used, as means of extortion and bribery by the thugs and muggers of police and municipal departments.
The sustenance of livelihood with dignity is a major struggle for the street vendors. They often face serious setbacks in asserting their rights through litigation as they are poor, uneducated and unorganized.
Growing cities, but Marginalization continues
No doubt, urban India is changing fast and several opportunities are coming up. But, along with opportunities, numerous challenges also have surfaced. One of major challenges is to counter the growing victimization, deprivation and marginalization of street vendors and other sections of working poor.
It is indeed ironic that the existing policy and legal environment do not favour street vendors much. The country has a National Policy for Urban Street Vendors framed in 2004, revised later in 2009. A Model Draft Bill was also prepared in 2009 and the Prime Minister of India, by a letter dated 04. 08.2009, issued to the Chief Ministers of States and UTs, sought implementation of National Policy for Street Vendors taking into account the Model Bill-2009. However, the government itself admitted that the implementation had been dismal in several states.
Struggle for Policy Implementation and Central Law
As the implementation of policy had not been satisfactory in several states, three years back the street vendors under the umbrella of the National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI) decided to fight for both policy implementation as well as enactment of central law to protect livelihood and social security of street vendors.
NASVI Rath Campaign for policy implementation and law making yielded results in several states including Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand 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 ruled 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.
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.
Agitation and Advocacy for Inclusive and Effective Central Law
- 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.
- Advocacy with NAC. NASVI took up the issue of central law with UPA President Sonia Gandhi led National Advisory Council (NAC). The NAC deliberated on the issue in its several meetings. In May, 2011, it recommended for a central law to the Government of India
- Posts and Mail to PMO. 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.
- Protests in cities. 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.
- Parliament Gherao: The 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 an effective law.
- Attorney General in favour of central 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.
- National conclave on Cities for All. 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.
- Bill drafting started. The process of drafting the Bill started and the Draft Bill got prepared. NASVI provided vital inputs to the MHUPA to make the Bill an effective one.
- Vetting by Law Ministry. In July, 2012, the Law Ministry cleared the Draft Street Vendors’ Bill
- Union Cabinet nod to Bill. On 17 August, 2012, the Union Cabinet approved the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill
- Achievement Day. On 18 August, 2012, NASVI called for nationwide celebration hailing the Union Cabinet approval to the Bill.
- The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 6 September, 2012.
Bill has many positives, but also several shortcomings
The Street Vendors 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 rectified immediately.
- The Bill leaves a lot with delegated legislation for the schemes to be framed by thousands of Municipal Bodies. It defeats the purpose of a Central Law.
- The Bill leaves out thousands of vendors earning their livelihood on railway land and railway stations.
- Principles of natural markets have been undermined in determining vending zones.
- There is no provision of minimum quantitative norms for numbers of vendors to be accommodated and percentage of public land allocated for vending.
- The Bill nullifies Rehabilitation and Resettlement provision of National Policy on Urban Street Vendors, 2004.
- Role deficient Town Vending Committee. No role in determining issues of street vendors including determination of vending zones.
- Drastic penal provision like fines
Situated in the above said context, 13 December National Convention holds major significance as thousands of street vendors and their representatives would voice their concerns over the shortcomings of the Street Vendors Bill and demand the government and the political parties to ensure that the Indian Parliament enacts an Inclusive and Effective Central Law to protect the fundamental right to livelihood of millions of street vendors.
The convention would be a larger national platform where the street vendors from different states of the country would be face to face with Union Ministers, State Urban Development Ministers, Parliamentarians, Municipal Executives, Mayors, Labour Commissioners, Livelihood and Labour Experts and representatives of development agencies on the issues of inclusive and sustainable urban growth, people centric governance and empowerment of working poor. The issues, demands and messages emerging from the convention would reach the Parliament which would be meeting then for its winter session.