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National Policy for Urban Street Vendors and Its Impact

Most of the cities in India have a large number of urban vendors. These vendors do not have any alternate means of survival. In 2004, the government formulated the National Policy for Urban Street Vendors to address the concerns of vendors who are constantly harassed by the police and local administrators. However, the policy is yet to be implemented and there has been little change in the vendors' status. This article discusses various reasons for the current situation though the 2004 policy is well directed in its intent.

COMMENTARYoctober 25, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly22National Policy for Urban Street Vendors and Its ImpactSatyam Shivam SundaramMost of the cities in India have a large number of urban vendors. These vendors do not have any alternate means of survival. In 2004, the government formulated the National Policy for Urban Street Vendors to address the concerns of vendors who are constantly harassed by the police and local administrators. However, the policy is yet to be implemented and there has been little change in the vendors’ status. This article discusses various reasons for the current situation though the 2004 policy is well directed in its intent.Most of the larger cities in India (Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Patna) have thousands of people working in the informal sector in different occupations. One such occupation is street vending or hawking.1 Hereafter, the word vendor has been used for both vendors and hawkers, since the 2004 National Policy for Urban Street Vendors (NPUSV (2004)) refers to both of them as vendors. According to an estimate, Mumbai supports the largest number of street vendors approximately 2,50,000 while Delhi, Kolkata, and Ahmedabad have approximately 2,00,000, 1,50,000, and 1,00,000 vendors. Most of these vendors in Kolkata and Ahmedabad were previ-ously working as labourers in various industries (which over time closed down due to the dilapidated condition of their respective industries and their failure to adapt to the changing globalenvironment) in these cities. 1 IntroductionSince vendors often face the threat of be-ing dislocated and their articles confiscat-ed by the city administration in most part of the country, while earning their liveli-hood on the urban roads, a national policy was formulated to address their concerns in 2004. This national policy has been in operation for nearly three years now and still there is no remarkable difference in the condition of vendors. This paper iden-tifies some of the possible reasons for this indifference.2 Vendors: Part of the Society?Vendors supply products/articles at a lower cost to the lower and middle income group of any society. Their existence on the road-side also helps in facilitating purchase of articles, while commuters are on their way back home from work or are on a trip for some other purpose and thereby reducing the number of trips and hence trip costs. In the absence of these vendors, lower and middle income groups would find it very difficult to sustain their liveli-hood in urban areas. The absence of ven-dors will also mean reduction in the avail-ability of manual labour in an urban area, as their family members are the labour forces, the daily wage employees in high income group households. On the nega-tive side, vendors occupy the sides of the road (end lanes on both sides) and thus block the pedestrian pathway (if any) and a part of the road. The road capacity is reduced when the (prospective) customers occupy a significant part of the lane while purchasing or looking at the displayed articles. It adds to the existing problems of urban transport congestion. They also litter the place with disposed articles. Some-times, these vendors establish permanent shops on unauthorised land or on the road-side. Such shops are the future challenges for urban authorities, when the time comes for their removal to be allotted for some other public purpose. Due to these reasons, various government agencies always try to remove vendors from the urban roads.Thus, urban vendors on the one hand are beneficial for the society and on the other create nuisance for the same society.3 MethodologyTo understand the importance of the NPUSV in resolving the issues that arise in the urban society, first the issues related to urban vendors need to be understood. For this purpose, the cases involving vendors heard in the Supreme Court of India and various high courts have been studied. These cases also help in understanding and interpreting the constitutional obliga-tion of the government towards them. The cases have been chosen from the 1980s and 1990s when struggle surfaced and was growing. This helps us in identifying the fundamental issues. Thereafter, the policy has been analysed to see how these issues have been dealt with. Thefinalstepisto understandthegapsthat still remain to be bridged and which has led to the current indifferent situation.3.1 ConstitutionalObligationsLet us understand the constitutional obli-gations of the state towards the people of India and their rights as provided by the Constitution of India.Satyam Shivam Sundaram ( is a doctoral student, Public Systems Group, IIM, Ahmedabad.
COMMENTARYEconomic & Political Weekly EPW october 25, 200823Article 14 (Equality before Law): The state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.Article 19(1)(g): All citizens shall have the right to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.Article 19(6): Nothing in sub-clause (g) of the said clause [19(1)(g)] shall affect the operation of any existing law insofar as it imposes, or prevent the state from making any law imposing, in the interests of the general public, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause, and, in particular, noth-ing in the said sub-clause shall affect the operation of any existing law insofar as it relates to, or prevent the state from mak-ing any law relating to (i) the professional or technical qualifications necessary for practising any profession or carrying on any occupation, trade or business, or (ii) the carrying on by the state, or by a corporation owned or controlled by the state, of any trade, business, industry or service, whether to the exclusion, com-plete or partial, of citizens or otherwise.Article 21 (Protection of Life and Per-sonal Liberty): No person shall be de-prived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.Apart from the above mentioned arti-cles, directive principles of the state policy in the ScheduleIV of the Constitution pro-vides guidelines for the state towards the people of India.3.2 Brief of Cases AnalysedThe cases, heard by the Supreme Court and the various high courts which are dis-cussed here, only relate to the fundamen-tal questions raised and the explanations given by the courts. The cases have been used to synthesise the issues that vendors are facing in India. The paper refrains from going into the details of each case and discussing the specific facts thereof.Sodan Singh and Others vs New Delhi Municipal Committee and Others (1989 Indlaw SC 213): The fundamental question that was addressed by the Supreme Court of India, in this case, was whether the rights provided in Article 19(1)(g) and Article 21 of the Constitution be restricted by the government under the Article 19(6) of the Constitution. The court held that vendors have the right to carry out their business for their livelihood on the road-sides, as long as they do not interfere with the rights of other people. This means that their rights to carry out roadside business can be reasonably restricted depending on the utilisation of the road or any other area. Vendors cannot ask for a fundamen-tal right to occupy any place permanently and they can only have temporary arrangements without disrupting others. The primary objective of the road is to move persons and goods between two points through a medium. This implies that the police/administrators can use this judgment to harass the vendors so long as no fixed arrangements are made by the government or the local body.From the case it can be suggested that the draft policy should provide a reason-able amount of space for the vendors for carrying out their business or help them establish an alternate medium for their livelihood.Olga Tellis and Others vsBMC and Others (1985 IndlawSC 161):This case pertains to slum-dwellers. The judgment again held that slum-dwellers have no right to erect permanent structure on the roadside and they can be removed by the government body. However, under Article 21 of the Constitution, the government was asked to make alternative arrangements for these slum-dwellers before they are removed. It was recognised that the local body and the government needs to pro-vide them alternate rehabilitation. This case does not directly deal with the rights of the vendors, but the guidelines provided by the courts are also useful for the rights of the vendors.This case points out that making alter-nate arrangement is as much a duty of the government as their removal for the benefit of some other urban population.Bombay Hawkers’ Union and Others vs BMC and Others (1985 IndlawSC 191): In this case the Supreme Court of India pro-vided certain guidelines for the govern-ment as well as vendors. Vendors were restricted from creating any permanent structure and were expected to cooperate with the municipal corporation in keeping the roads clean. The government was advised to create hawking zones to avoid discomfort to the other users of the road as well as the vendors.Municipal Corporation of Delhi vs Gur-nam Kaur (1988 IndlawSC703): The court ordered against the vendors in this case after being convinced that there was no threat to their life by the removal of their stall in this particular case. However the court went a step further in suggesting that hawkers’ and non-hawkers’ zone may be created to avoid this forceful squatter-ing for the vendors. It was suggested that such a move will be able to achieve the twin objective of cleaner city and will also reduce the congestion on the road.Gulamali Gulamnabi Shaik vs Municipal Commissioner (1986GLH 616): The Supreme Court directed the government to frame rules and regulations for vendors for providing them licence and space for carrying out their business. This was done to avoid harassment and trouble for ven-dors. This also provided neater and clear city to other road users.From the above cases, the following issues emerge: (i) regulation regarding places where vendors can carry out their business, (ii) regulation regarding the articles which can be sold by the vendors, (iii) regulations and procedures regarding eviction of vendors, (iv) issues of extor-tion, bribery and harassment of street vendors, and (v) issues of relocation and rehabilitation. Resolving these issues will help the primary users of the road by prov-ing them cleaner and less crowded roads and at the same time reducing the hassles for vendors. 3.3 National Policy of 2004The National Policy for Urban Street Vendors was drafted to provide and pro-mote a supportive environment for vendors as well as ensure absence of congestion and maintenance of hygiene in public spaces and streets. The specific sections of this policy are highlighted to understand how the policy would resolve the issues related to vendors.The policy has aimed to provide ven-dors a legal status and to allow them carry out their business in designated areas. These designated areas are to be called hawkers’ zones and non-hawkers’ zones. These zones need to become a part of the planning process (section 4.1.1 of the policy).
COMMENTARYoctober 25, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly24The guideline suggests that enough space should be designated for vendors at least to the extent of 2 per cent to 2.5 per cent of the total city population (section 4.2.1 of the policy). The guideline also provides some flexibility to the cities as regards the exact norms. Vendors are also expected to register and should be monitored by the town vending committee/ward vending committee (section 4.1.1). Participation of vendors in the town vending committee/ward vending committee should be en-sured. This will help reduce their harass-ment. The policy also provides guidelines for relocation and rehabilitation of ven-dors. Vendors are to be assisted and any loss of assets should be avoided as a part of rehabilitation process. The policy guide-line has also tried to address the issue of confiscation under section 5 where guide-lines have been provided to safeguard the interests of the vendors. There is a clear indication that eviction should be the last resort and reasonable time should be given for relocation. They should also be assisted in establishing their business in a new place. Section 8 discusses the insurance and finan-cial problems of the vendors. For financing, the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rojgar Yojana (SJSRY) scheme have been indicated in the policy. 4 Possible Reasons for FailureEven after the guidelines provided by the NPUSV, there has been little change in the status of vendors over the years. A part of the reason could be the policy itself. The policy discusses a lot of things regarding allocating of land, legalisation of profession and registration. But the policy has not indicated a time frame or a road map for the same. It also fails to recognise that governments have limited resources and they may not be concentrating on vendors, thereby making it a promise that will never get executed. Similarly, on matters like insurance, the policy is silent leaving a lot to the self-help groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). This is an area where a structured long-term solutionneedstobe worked out. The policy also talks about the need for changing the Sections 2832 and 4313 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and municipal acts so as to enabletheguide-lines to become effectively.Section283and section 431 of IPC provides the administra-tion a lethal weapon to use against the vendors. Using these acts, police is able to extract money from the vendors and trouble them. Unless the act is modified, the policy formulated for vendors may not be effective in reducing the harassment of the urban poor. The delay intheseamend-ments is a consequence of not having any time frame spelt out for completing thesame. However, while amending the laws, enough precautions need to be taken so that no one uses it to create larger problems for the society. Different urban local bodies (e g, muni-cipal corporations and urban development authorities) have various laws which are currently used against the vendors. These laws also need to be amended to make the national policy on vendors an effective one. Some of these laws are discussed here.Ahmedabad: The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation laws allow the police to arrest vendors for obstructing the traffic without warrant and fine them. The Act also does not allow any hawking of goods without a proper licence from the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. Their property can also be removed immediately. Given the power under this act, the national policy cannot be effective if other measures are not taken. The modification in the act should be carried out along with policy intervention at the local govern-ment level to establish a hawkers’ zone and safeguard the interest of the primary users of the road. Registration process should be made simple so that they are encouraged to register.Bangalore: The Bangalore bylaws have some relief for the vendors. They recognise the need for identifying a separate area for vending and also have provisions for allowing street vending without making the place dirty on certain identified streets. However, there are also regulations regard-ing the movement of vendors around free spaces and parks driven more by the need for cleanliness rather than obstruction.Bhubaneshwar: The Orissa Municipality Act, 1950 allows public markets at designated places with a fee being paid to the municipality. All participants need to have a licence and it can be cancelled by the municipality if they find that the par-ticular vendor has not been functioning in accordance with the regulations. Thus, hawkers here have some legal rights. How-ever the registration process needs to be made smooth and less complicated.Kolkata: In Kolkata, the Municipality Act does not allow any hawking activity near any road or free area. Their articles can be seized immediately and the person can be detained. This is surprising, given that a communist government has been in power for a long time in West Bengal. A few times in the past, hawkers have been evicted forcefully and their articles have been confiscated. Quite a few of these hawkers are manual workers from the industries in and around Kolkata which over the years have shut down. Thus, it is the only liveli-hood for them. The government laws are manipulated by the administration to har-ass the vendors and extract some illegal money. Thus this law also needs to be modified accordingly.Mumbai: The Municipal Corporation of Mumbai allows for hawking activities with permission and under licence from the muni-cipality. However, it has been found that there are very few vendors who are regis-tered with the corporation. Most of them run their hawking activities illegally by bribing the local police because of the complexities related with the registration process. The municipality does not allow for permanent structure even to the licensed persons. Patna: The Patna Municipal Corporation Act is also similar to the other acts dis-cussed above. It does not allow any goods to be sold on the road without prior per-mission of the municipality in the form of a licence. Any person obstructing the traffic and any other movement may be arrested without warrant and fined, if found guilty. Thus, this act can be used to harass the vendors and extract money from them illegally. There is a need to modify this act tomake it a little more vendor-friendly.5 ConcludingRemarksGiven the scope of the various acts (mu-nicipal and IPC) in different parts of the country, it is possible to harass vendors

In a strict sense, vendors are those who stick to a place and sell while hawkers are those who move from one place to another for selling. Hawkers are also called peddlers or packmen.

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