Street vendors to finally get a voice

A file photo of a street vendor selling flowers and fruits on the service road off West of Chord Road in Bengaluru.  

A five-year fight by street vendors seems to be finally bearing some results. Elections to town vending committees, which will have 10 street vendors elected from each zone, will be held in the city on December 21.

This is the first time town vending committees are being formed in the State. Similar elections are being held in all other 276 Urban Local Bodies by December 25.

The High Court, hearing a PIL petition by street vendors, had issued directions to the State government to notify rules for The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 that provides for town vending committees, and hold elections, to spur the administration into action.

The town vending committees, to be chaired by the Joint Commissioners of the zone, will have 10 street vendors elected as members (40% of the committee). These committees will demarcate vending and non-vending zones in the city and work for the welfare of the street vendors.

“The elections have infused a new enthusiasm among street vendors as they hope the mechanism, if it works, will free them from the harassment by the police and civic authorities,” said Rangaswamy, president, Federation of Karnataka Street Vendors' Unions, who is also contesting to be a member of the west zone committee.

However, the elections are not without problems. Only street vendors with ID cards issued by ULBs are allowed to contest and vote.

“Many of those who are registered during the recent survey and are on the voter’s list, do not have ID cards. In many places, civic officials have handed over the ID cards of vendors to the local councillors, sabotaging the purpose of the whole process,” alleged S. Babu, president, Federation of Bengaluru District Street Vendors' Unions.

No ID cards have been issued in Bommanahalli zone and elections are not being held in the zone. The Union has now demanded that anyone with their names on the voters list must be allowed to contest and vote.

BBMP Commissioner B.H. Anil Kumar said he will ensure all ID cards are given to the vendors and take action against erring officials.

Vendors have also alleged that politicians do not want to give autonomy to street vendors and are trying to sabotage the process by threatening vendors not to take part in the polls. They are also keen on ensuring their “nominees” to get elected to these committees, said Mr. Babu.

He also stressed on the need for the civic body to create awareness campaigns on the voting process and reduce the nomination fee of ₹2000.

The first agenda of the town vending committees has to be an extensive survey of street vendors across the city, said Lekha Adavi of Federation of Bengaluru District Street Vendors' Unions.

“There are an estimated over one lakh street vendors in the city and those on the voters list is only 14,112,” she said. The survey conducted before finalising the list had 24,486 vendors registered.

“The Act mandates the town vending committees to conduct a survey of street vendors every five years. The committees that will be now formed should immediately take up an extensive survey before demarcating vending and non-vending zones,” she said.

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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 9:45:42 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/street-vendors-to-finally-get-a-voice/article30280656.ece

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