NASVI organized Punjab level ‘Street Vendors Convention’ concludes

Street vendors ask government ‘cities grow and opportunities come up, but why do they remain vulnerable and marginalized?’

Chandigarh, 6 October:

A large number of street vendors and their representatives from Chandigarh and other parts of Punjab on Saturday joined a state level convention asking government and municipal bodies ‘ cities and towns grow and so are the opportunities, but why do street vendors and other working poor remain vulnerable, deprived and marginalized?’

The convention on ‘ Changing Cities, Growing Challenges & Protection of Livelihood of Street Vendors’ was organized by the National Association of Street Vendors of India {NASVI) in association with Chandigarh based street vendors’ organizations.

Besides hundreds of street vendor representatives from Chandigarh, Mohali, Ludhiana, Sangrur, Patiala, Barnala, Amritsar, Abohar, Rajpura and Hoshiarpur, top officials of the Chandigarh Municipal Coporation including its Commissioner VP Singh, additional commissioner Lalit Chiwas, mayor Rajbala Malik, former union minister HM Dhawan and national coordinator of NASVI Arbind Singh also joined the convention.

The convention demanded of the central government to immediately enact the central law to protect livelihood of street vendors and put ban on FDI in retail.

It also demanded of the Punjab government and UT Chandigarh administration to instruct their municipal bodies to prepare time bound action plans for constituting Town/Ward Vending Committees with forty per cent members of the committee being street vendors and creating at least fifty vending zones in each town.

Addressing the convention, NASVI national coordinator Arbind Singh said that the cities and towns were changing rapidly and several opportunities also coming up. He, however, added that many challenges had also surfaced.

“One of major challenges is to counter the growing victimization, deprivation and marginalization of street vendors and other sections of working poor. The vulnerabilities and marginalization of the working poor can only be checked through creating a supportive legal- administrative environment, developing integrative city development plans and putting in place corruption free efficient and responsive municipal governance”, NASVI chief said.

He called upon the street vendors to get organized, build their organizations, develop leadership and negotiation skills, engage effectively with government authorities and struggle collectively to win their rights.

The convention was addressed among others by NASVI program manager and in charge of Punjab Ranjit Abhigyan, vendor leader of Patiala Vasudev Saneja, vendor leaders of Chandigarh Rammilan Gaur, RA Chauhan, Surinder Gandhi, Ludhiana based vendor leaders Tirath Singh, Jagdish Walia and Tiger Singh, Sangrur based leader Hari Singh and other vendor leaders of Amritsar, Hoshiarpur, Barnala, Rajpura and Abohar.

Before the convention, training on developing negotiation skills was also organized for the selected street vendor leaders. The training sessions were moderated by NASVI program managers Vinod Simon, Anurag Shankar and Amita Srivastava.

Post-convention, NASVI has announced to intensify nationwide agitation for early enactment of central law to protect the fundamental right to livelihood of street vendors. It also called upon the street vendors to protest the UPA government decision to allow the FDI in retail.

Addressing a press conference at the Chandigarh Press Club, NASVI national coordinator Arbind Singh charged the Manmohan Singh government with what he called selling a fake dream to the farmers, the working poor and the middle class consumers. “ At one level, the central government introduces the street vendors bill in the Lok Sabha for protecting livelihood of street vendors, but on the other hand, it puts red carpets for the multinational retailers”, he said.

He said that the bill introduced in the Lok Sabha had some major shortcomings. One of the major flaws included provision of giving a seven days notice before eviction or relocation. “We stand for no eviction of street vendors and if in any extraordinary situation wherein the relocation becomes a necessity, a notice should be given before three months”, NASVI chief said.  He also said that the railway vendors had not been included under the purview of the proposed law and many things had been left to the local authority and the schemes.

“We 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. In stead 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 Punjab to gherao multinational retailers’ hyper markets. He also thanked the Punjab government for getting over its initial fascination for FDI in retail.

About municipal governance in Punjab and Chandigarh, NASVI chief said, “The state government and the UT administration do need to ensure that their municipal bodies set examples of pro-poor responsive governance.” He added that Punjab was one of those few states which had not implemented the 2004 National Policy for Street Vendors properly.

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