Among the major objections is the "concentration" of power in the hands of the local municipal bodies which do not have any representation of street vendors

Civil society groups working on the rights of street vendors have alleged that the Street Vendors’ (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2012, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha in the monsoon session, has major shortcomings. The National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI) has highlighted the areas where the Bill “falls much short of expectations” and announced a national campaign demanding “concrete” amendments.

Among the major objections is the “concentration” of power in the hands of the local municipal bodies which do not have any representation of street vendors. NASVI national coordinator Arbind Singh argued that in its current form the proposed law has “concentrated too much power” in the civic bodies including the final authority to take the decision on a variety of issues key to the rights of street vendors.

This was not the case in the draft bill which empowered the proposed Town Vending Committees (TVC), which were mandated to have at least 40 per cent representation of street vendors, he argued.

“The main provisions of the Bill defeat the very purpose of the need for any law as lots of powers have been given to municipal bodies like the final authority on issues like identification, registration and licensing of street vendors, identification of natural markets and allocation of space based on the idea of natural markets.”

“On lots of other important issues, the proposed law leaves it to the discretion of the local bodies to create schemes for street vendors. As far as our experience in the advocacy goes, municipal bodies do not even consider the street vending community dignified and worthy enough to engage with. How are we then expected to believe that the same bodies can be trusted for protecting rights of the same people?” Mr. Singh asked.

In accordance with the provisions of the National Policy for Urban Street Vendors 2004, the civil society group has demanded central role for the TVC to deal with all important issues of street vendors including the demarcation of natural markets and vending zones.

Mr. Singh also argued that the Bill shows scant regard to rehabilitation and resettlement issues in case of land acquisition for public purposes. It nullifies even the provisions of the National Policy for Urban Street Vendors 2004 on the issue of rehabilitation and resettlements, he added saying the very important point of “public purpose” has not been transparently and clearly defined in the Bill.

“We are not arguing that the Bill is all negative, indeed it has lots of motive provisions which will prevent the day-to-day harassment of street vendors. What we do not want is to allow the proposed law to end up being just a cosmetic law which can not ensure protection of the rights of the marginalised professionals.”

NASVI has submitted its points of amendments to the Secretary of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation and the National Advisory Council.

Among a list of amendments NASVI will campaign for, include provisions for those on railway premises who have been left out of the scope of the proposed law, incorporation of principles of natural markets as central to the determination of vending zones, prescription of minimum quantitative norms for a number of street vendors to be accommodated and provision for allocation of a minimum percentage of public land for street vending.

In order to pressurise the Government for amendments in the Bill, NASVI has also proposed a series of campaigns and advocacy programmes including a national convention of street vendors in Delhi on December 13.

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