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.