Peddling reforms for street vendors?

August 14, 2009

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has taken a step towards unshackling the poorest of entrepreneurs — the street vendors.

In a letter to chief ministers, this week, Singh called for a “new deal” for urban street vendors and implementation of the National Policy on Urban Street Vendors, 2009 — which would enable vendors to ply their trade without harassment.

These include hawkers, sidewalk traders or even the people selling clothes or utensils at the weekly market.

For them, the landmark economic reforms of 1991 carry little meaning.
The Centre for Civil Society, citing an example of persistent ‘license raj’, says that only 75,000 of half a million cycle-rickshaws plying in Delhi are licensed.
The rest pay an estimated 80 million rupees a month in bribes.

Like rickshaw-pullers, street vendors also have to cough up money to the police, fearing eviction or confiscation of wares.

It was estimated that they pay 400 million rupees yearly in bribes in the national capital alone.
People paying these bribes have an average daily income of Rs. 70 for men and Rs. 40 for women as estimated by the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector. They borrow from money lenders at rates up to 110 percent.
In Sodan Singh and Others versus New Delhi Municipal Council in 1989, the Supreme Court had ruled : “The right to carry on trade or business mentioned in Article 19 (1) g of the constitution, on street pavements, if properly regulated, cannot be denied on the ground that the streets are meant exclusively for passing or re-passing and no other use.”
The revised National Policy on Urban Street Vendors, 2009  by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation recognizes the “need for regulation of street vending by way of designated ‘Restricted-free Vending’, ‘Restricted Vending’ and ‘No Vending’ zones based on certain objective principles.”
It lays down that there should not be any cut off date or limit imposed on the number of vendors who should be permitted to sell their goods.
The policy aims to “eschew imposing numerical limits on access to public spaces by discretionary licenses, and instead moving to nominal fee-based regulation of access.”
A model bill on regulation of street vending has been drafted but it is for the states to enact the laws. 
That is where the prime minister’s letter comes in.
As part of its campaign for street vendor rights, civil society group Manushi set up in 2005 a temple dedicated to what it describes as a secular goddess “Swachha Narayani”.
The goddess holds a broom to symbolize strength from unity and cleanliness, a clock to signify changing times, a coin to communicate right to livelihood and also a weighing balance, video-camera and pen.
So is the goddess ready to smile on vendors and small entrepreneurs?

[ Photos: A hawker sells computer and electronic spare parts on a pavement in Kolkata while another hawker in Mumbai prepares a cosmetic for men as a customer looks into a mirror. ]


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To make the economic reforms one needs to sell them to people and the best way of doing this is to make them relevant to people. The state should keep away from things it can’t regulate well. Better no regulation than irregularities.

Posted by Jyoti Bajpai | Report as abusive

I think the writer has confused the issue of economic reforms with administrative reforms. The lack of later cant be used to justify the former

Posted by Reflecting | Report as abusive

Sometimes I wonder if the Supreme Court should govern the country? Is it more progressive than the government a la politicians? Or is it more right wing for supporting the reforms? The court said a couple of years back that the workers had no right to strike, but now apparently it has spoken for vendors for two decades.
Also why is it that the court doesnt haul up the executive for contempt when its orders having the force of law go flouted for twenty years?

Posted by Vijay | Report as abusive

As long as the “long” arms of bureaucracy are there the puny vendors will still face harrassment. Guess the long arms of the law should get longer.

Posted by Rupam | Report as abusive

The street vendors have helped the police to fight crime and catch criminals. eyes-and-ears-in-place-police-play-big-b rother/404796/
I think there is place for everyone in an inclusive city.

Posted by Street Smart | Report as abusive

Difficult one to handle this, at least they are trying to regulate it.

Posted by suze 100 | Report as abusive