A+| A| A-

The Right to Sell

The law legalising street vending is welcome and comes not a day too soon.

The union minister for housing and urban poverty alleviation, Ajay Maken, believes that the urban poor have a right to conduct trade and business, even if it is on the street. He is willing to back this by bringing in a law that gives them the right. Thus, the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2012, introduced by Maken’s predecessor Kumari Selja in the Lok Sabha in August last year, is due to be passed with a couple of amendments in the current budget session. The journey towards such a law began many years ago, with a Supreme Court ruling in 1985 and culminating in 2009 in the National Policy on Urban Street Vendors. Yet, despite the increasing acceptance by policymakers at the centre that street vendors are not only a fact of life in Indian cities but should be allowed to conduct their business by law, the reality in most cities is vastly different.

Mumbai, for instance, has the largest number of street vendors, estimated to be around 3,00,000. However, only around 10% of them are “legal” in that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has given them licences. The majority of them are deemed “illegal”. Yet for decades, they have conducted their business by paying the local police and municipal employees varying amounts. Ironically, the BMC charges some of them for “unauthorised occupation” and “refuse removal charges” on a daily basis and even issues receipts. In other words, while continuing to call them “illegal”, it legally collects daily fines from them. Instead, if these vendors were given licences, the monetary gain to the BMC would be substantially more. Yet, it continues to keep its head firmly in the sand and allows this apparent illegality to flourish and grow. By doing so, it can keep for itself the right to arbitrarily decide when and how often it will deal with the “illegals”. Thus, almost on a daily basis in some part of the city, it conducts raids, confiscates the goods of these so-called “illegal” vendors, destroys their temporary shops and clears up the pavements. For these forays, a section of middle-class citizens applauds the BMC and urges it on. But within days, it is business as usual as the vendors return, pay their regular dues to their protectors in the police and the municipality and wait with trepidation for another round of demolitions.

To read the full text Login

Get instant access

New 3 Month Subscription
to Digital Archives at

₹826for India

$50for overseas users

Comments

(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

Using ordinance to protect freedom of expression from foul speech may result in damaging decent communication.

Only an empowered regulator can help boost production and cut coal imports.

Biden’s policy of the “return to the normal” would be inadequate to decisively defeat Trumpism.

*/ */

Only a generous award by the Fifteenth Finance Commission can restore fiscal balance.

*/ */

The assessment of the new military alliance should be informed by its implications for Indian armed forces.

The fiscal stimulus is too little to have any major impact on the economy.

The new alliance is reconfigured around the prospect of democratic politics, but its realisation may face challenges.

A damning critique does not allow India to remain self-complacent on the economic and health fronts.

 

The dignity of public institutions depends on the practice of constitutional ideals.

The NDA government’s record in controlling hunger is dismal despite rising stocks of cereal.

 

Back to Top