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THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY RAHUL SARASWAT, A STUDENT OF GUJARAT NATIONAL LAW UNIVERSITY, GANDHINAGAR.
Street vendors are an integral part of the urban informal sector in India. A Street vendor is a person who offers merchandises for sale to the public at large without having a permanent built-up structure from which to sell. Street vendors may be stationary in the sense that they occupy space on the pavements or other public/private spaces, or mobile in the sense that they move from place to place by carrying their wares on push carts or on their heads. As a profession, street vending has existed in India for a long time now and the number of street vendors in India has increased in the past few years. The people who take up street vending as a profession are those who are unable to get regular jobs due to lack of proper education and skills. The street vendors provide cheap food, clothes and other items of daily use. Many people consider their presence on streets as a nuisance for commuters or eye sores and are treated as intruders by civic authorities. The matter for legal recognition for street vendors has been an ordeal and has plagued vendors for long. A major development took place when the Supreme Court recognised the right of Street vendors to practice their profession in Sodan Singh v. New Delhi Municipal Corporation. The court held that with proper regulation the vendors can act as boon for the society as they provide items of daily use for a fairly lesser price. The Government of India while considering the substantial contributions made by street vendors to the urban society and in order to empower them to earn a respectful living brought about a Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2012 in Parliament in September 2012 after consultations with various individual street vendors and organisations. ‘The Street Vendors Policy’ introduced in 2004, which was later revised as ‘National Policy on Urban Street Vendors, 2009 formed the basis for this bill.
Eventually in 2010, a judgement of the Honourable Supreme Court, Gainda Ram v. Municipal Corporation of Delhi was delivered in favour of the urban poor. The Apex Court recognised the fundamental right of hawkers to carry on their profession and in its observation stated that Town Vending Committees should be appointed to regulate street vending and ensure that vendors are allotted proper public spaces. It also directed the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation to work out a central legislation. The Ministry in the subsequent years drafted a bill for the safety of legitimate street vendors. The bill was finally passed by the 2 houses of Parliament and received the President’s assent on 4th March, 2014. This Act is the need of the hour as it safeguards the vendors, which account for up to 2% of the entire population, and their profession amidst rapid urban change and provides a sense of security to the urban poor and promote their livelihood.
The key features of the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act are:-
- The Act provides for setting up one or more Town Vending Committee (TVC) in each local authority, zone or ward for executing the provisions of the Act. It shall comprise of municipal commissioner, representatives of street vendors, local authorities, traffic police, banks and welfare organisations
- The TVC shall register people only above 14 years of age who are willing to undertake Street Vending as a profession. The TVC has the power to issue vending certificates only for a registered person and only those persons with a vending certificate are permitted to work as street workers. It also has the power to cancel vending certificates.
- A street vending plan must be prepared every five years by every local authority to determine zones as restriction-free, restricted and no-vending zones as well as other provisions to accommodate existing and future street vendors.
- The local authorities may evict the street vendors for non-compliance with the provisions of the Act. They may also relocate the vendors for creating nuisance, obstructing public movement or for any other public purpose.
- A dispute redressal committee constituted by local authorities to address the grievances of the street vendors must be put in place and shall comprise of judicial magistrate and persons experienced in street vending and natural markets. An appeal against the decision shall lie with the local authority.
- The Act also provides for promotional measures to be undertaken by the Government, towards availability of credit, insurance and other welfare schemes of social security for street vending.
- The Act ensures for a secure environment to be provided for the street vendors and protects them from harassment by the police and other authorities.
Rights and Obligation of Street vendors:
- Duty to remove goods and wares every day at the end of the time-sharing period allowed to him.
- Duty to maintain cleanliness and public hygiene.
- Duty to pay periodic maintenance charges for the civic amenities and facilities provided in the vending zone.
The provisions under this Act have set guidelines to set up a dispute redressal committee constituted by the local authorities to resolve disputes regarding the vendors and their profession. The committees are independent of the Town vending committees and are consist of a judge and two professionals experienced in these matters. Another important function of these committees is to deliver swifter justice to the street vendors under Section 20 of the Act. A time period is fixed for the adjudication of the disputes and recourse to local authority has been provided for in case of disagreement with the verdict of the redressal committee. This provision increases the efficiency of the judiciary and reduces the burden of the court in cases related to street vendors and their profession. This provision of the Act also diminishes the cost of litigation for the urban poor.
However there are always certain loopholes in everything, as nothing can be perfect. The Bill states that the central law will override any other state law in case there is conflict between the two laws. Now we can see form this fact that this act is made in conflict with state laws as under this act, the TVC has a limited role involving the issue and renewal of registration and vending certificates and keeping records of street vendors such as the stall allotted for vending, category of vending and the business carried out. However, in some states such as Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan the laws on street vending (and the Odisha street vendor’s policy) give the TVC the power to identify and designate vending zones and determine the vending capacity of each zone the act specifies that no vendor can be evicted without a 7 day notice by the local authority. Also the vendor will be entitled to a separate vending location. This provision has however been observed only in its breach with vendors being evicted at will based on the whims and fancies of police and local authorities. However street vendors act was enacted in 2014 but till now only preliminary effort has been done in actual implementation of this act like framing rules or conducting survey etc. Most of the issued are left to the Scheme that is to be framed by the local authorities beginning with the manner of registration to the entire thing. The railway accommodates a significant population of street vendors in India but unfortunately railway is excluded from purview of this act. The standing committee has also recommended that railway should be included under purview of this act. The undertaking given by person that no other means of livelihood is controversial because suppose any person employed as watchman can look for part time employment as a street vendor. So clause shall be subjected to things such as i/c of person, estimated i/c from applying vending business etc. The obligations such as fee for certification, maintenance charges, to maintain public property/hygienic conditions etc. can be cause of breach of conditions by a street vendor because average daily income of street vendors is around Rs 70 as per survey and lead to harassment of vendors by officials. So, ultimately defeat the purpose of enactment of this act. The strict licensing regime under the act may result in a rise in corrupt practices of the enforcement agencies. A long arduous process is setup to get hold of a certificate of vending. The standards for applicability of registration, scrutiny of claims burden of registration on the vendor, the inability of street vendors to produce necessary documents due to poor living conditions etc., all act as a hindrance for the street vendor to get hold of a license. However there are some flawed provisions in street vendor’s act 2014 but still it is a very good start for creating a harassment free environment for street vendors.
 “National Policy for Urban Street Vendors/Hawkers, 2004.” Accessed September 10, 2014. http://www.nasvinet.org/userfiles/file/National Policy-2004.pdf.
 1989 SCR (3) 1038
 Available at: http://188.8.131.52/BillsTexts/LSBillTexts/PassedLoksabha/104C_2012_LS_Eng.pdf
 Supra n.3
 “‘National Policy on Urban Street Vendors, 2009.” Accessed September 10, 2014. http://mhupa.gov.in/policies/StreetPolicy09.pdf.
 Chakravartty, Anupam. “Street Vendors’ Bill Will Be Introduced in Parliament This Session, Says Selja.” Down to Earth, November 24, 2011.Available at: http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/street-vendors-bill-will-be-introduced-parliament-session-says-selja
 (2010) 10 SCC 715
 Anjaria, Jonathan. “How We Define the Street.” Indian Express, March 10, 2014. Accessed September 10, 2014. http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/how-we-define-the-street/.
 Supra n. 7
 Act 7 of 2014. Available at: http://www.indiacode.nic.in/acts2014/7%20of%202014.pdf
 Supra note 10.
 Srivastava, Ayani, Vasujith Ram, Meenakshi Kurpad, Sohni Chatterjee, Pankti Vohra, and Modhulika Bose. “Formalising the Informal Streets: A Legislative Review of the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2012.” Journal of Indian Law and Society 4: Monsoon: 265.