Balwant Singh, a vegetable seller at Jangpura market, has been waiting for this day since 2011 when he found out that a legislation to protect street vendors’ livelihoods was in the offing. With a radiant smile on Friday, as the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill-2012 was passed by the Lok Sabha, he distributed sweets in the market.

There were enough reasons for Balwant to celebrate. He expects the “daily routine” of harassment at the hands of municipal authorities and the police to decrease.

“Today history was made,” he says.

He said street vendors are at the mercy of civic body officials and local police. The vendors’ livelihood exist in a legislative vacuum, making them vulnerable to exploitation.

The proposed law, which has been hailed by the National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI), provides great relief to around 2 per cent of the country’s population involved in street vending.

The bill provides for security and protection of the livelihood of all street vendors who have a vending certificate, which will be issued by the Town Vending Committee. The bill approved by the Union Cabinet states that at least 2.5 per cent of a city’s population would be allocated vending zones.

It would be mandatory to form Town and Zonal Vending Committees in every city, with street vendors having 40 per cent representation.

NASVI national coordinator Arbind Singh termed the bill an “inclusive and effective” Central legislation and a “critical socio-political need of urbanising India”. He said from eatables to fruit juices, soft toys to precious stones, garments to iron tools — street vendors in the city sell a large range of products. But useful as they are, there is no legislation yet to provide immunity to the vendor community.

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