Union Minister of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Ajay Maken on Thursday said ensuring an effective Central legislation to protect the livelihoods of street vendors was one of the “top priorities” of the UPA Government. Inaugurating the national convention of street vendors here, Mr. Maken announced that the Government would try to bring the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood & Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2012, in the next session of Parliament.

“Reign of fear and terror waged by municipal bodies and police against street vendors must stop because they have got the right to secured and dignified livelihood which must be ensured through effective legislation,” said Mr. Maken at the convention on “Challenge 2040: Countering the Marginalisation of Working Poor and Need of Inclusive Central Law for Street Vendors” organised by the National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI).

Informing the gathering of street vendors from across the country, he said the Bill was introduced in the last session of the Lok Sabha. “But street vendors still have reservations about the Bill. I have come here to tell you that the Government is live and responsive to those concerns and we would ensure that livelihood protecting effective central legislation gets enacted,” he added.

Strongly advocating for the implementation of the proposed law over the railway properties as well, he promised, amid thundering applause by the vendors that he would take up the matter with the Ministry of Railways. He also argued that the natural markets for street vendors have been an “intrinsic” part of the urban landscape which can not be uprooted.

Mr. Maken announced that sufficient allocation would be made under the National Urban Livelihood Mission for the welfare and economic upliftment of street vendors. “The ministry would roll out an innovative loan scheme for street vendors soon and the allocations would be made under different schemes for developing model vendors’ markets in different cities.”

Mr. Maken dwelt extensively on the structure and salient features of the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) and said that the scheme would include all street vendors. He, however, conceded that many bottlenecks were found in the implementation of the scheme and the ministry was finding ways to improve the implementation.

The Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment K. Suresh said the street vendors were a “neglected lot” and hence their welfare was of utmost importance. “The vendors do need social protection and more efforts would be made by the government towards this end.”

NASVI national coordinator Arbind Singh argued that the urban India needed inclusive legislation and responsive municipal governance for the empowerment of street vendors. “The street vendors contribute to economy as well as society but they remain growth deficient. We have to fight out the factors which lead to such marginalisation,” he said while calling upon the vendors to intensify their campaign for a comprehensive legislation on the issue.

Those who participated in the convention include the Urban Development Minister of Bihar Prem Kumar, academician Professor Babu Mathew besides several municipal executives, mayors, livelihood and labour experts and representatives of development agencies.