Lok Sabha passes bill to safeguard rights of street vendors

The Lok Sabha today passed a bill that aims to provide protection of livelihood rights and social security to over 10 million street vendors in the country while also setting rules for regulation of urban street vending in the country.

The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2012 aims at creating a conducive atmosphere where street vendors are able to carry out their business in a fair and transparent manner, without the fear of harassment and eviction.

''Street vendors constitute an integral part of our urban economy. Street vending is not only a source of self-employment to the poor in cities and towns but also a means to provide 'affordable' as well as 'convenient' services to a majority of the urban population, especially the common man,'' Girija Vyas, minister of housing and urban poverty alleviation, said while moving the bill in the House.

Street vendors are often those who are unable to get regular jobs in the remunerative formal sector on account of their low level of education and skills and it is natural they try to solve their livelihoods issues through their own meagre financial resources and sweat equity, she said, adding that their numbers are expected to grow with increasing urbanisation.

''It is vital that these vendors are enabled to pursue their livelihoods in a congenial and harassment free atmosphere. Inclusive growth strategy adopted by the 11th and 12th Five Year Plans calls for a facilitating mechanism for street vending to aid economic growth and inclusion simultaneously,'' she said.

The bill provides for constitution of a Town Vending Authority in each local authority, which is the fulcrum of the bill, for implementing the provisions of the bill.

The TVC would have representation of officials and non-officials and street vendors, including women vendors with due representation from SC, ST, OBC, minorities and persons with disabilities, in order to ensure participatory decision making, like determination of natural market, identification of vending zones, preparation of street vending plan, survey of street vendors etc.

Forty per cent of the members of the TVC will be from amongst street vendors, to be selected through election, of which one-third would be women.

To avoid arbitrariness of authorities, the bill provides for a survey of all existing street vendors, and subsequent survey at-least once in every five years, and issue of certificate of vending to all the street vendors identified in the survey, with preference to SC, ST, OBC, women, persons with disabilities, minorities etc.

All existing street vendors, identified in the survey, will be accommodated in the vending zones subject to a norm conforming to 2.5 per cent of the population of the ward or zone or town or city.

Where the number of street vendors identified are more than the holding capacity of the vending zone, the Town Vending Committee (TVC) is required to carry out a draw of lots for issuing the certificate of vending for that vending zone and the remaining persons will be accommodated in any adjoining vending zone to avoid relocation.

Those street vendors who have been issued a certificate of vending/licence etc before the commencement of this Act will be deemed to be a street vendor for that category and for the period for which he/she has been issued such certificate of vending/licence.

The bill seeks to ensure that no street vendor will be evicted until the survey has been completed and certificate of vending issued to the street vendors.

In case a street vendor, to whom a certificate of vending is issued, dies or suffers from any permanent disability or is ill, one of his family member, ie, spouse or dependent child can vend in his place, till the validity of the certificate of vending.

The idea is to provide universal coverage, by protecting the street vendors from harassment and promoting their livelihoods.

The bill provides for specific procedure for relocation, eviction and confiscation of goods to make it street vendor friendly. It is proposed to provide for recommendation of the TVC as a necessary condition for any relocation of vendors by the local authority.

Relocation of street vendors should be exercised as a last resort and the bill makes it clear that relocation should be avoided as far as possible, unless there is clear and urgent need for the land in question; affected vendors or their representatives should be involved in planning and implementation of the rehabilitation project; affected vendors should be relocated so as to improve their livelihoods and standards of living or at least to restore them, in real terms to pre-evicted levels and natural markets where street vendors have conducted business for over fifty years should be declared as heritage markets, and the street vendors in such markets shall not be relocated.

The local authority is required to make out a plan once in every 5 years, on the recommendation of TVC, to promote a supportive environment and adequate space for urban street vendors to carry out their vocation.

It specifically provides that declaration of no-vending zone should be carried subject to the specified principles namely:

  • Any existing natural market, or an existing market as identified under the survey should not be declared as a no-vending zone;
  • Declaration of no-vending zone should be done in a manner which displaces the minimum percentage of street vendors;
  • No zone should be declared as a no-vending zone till such time as the survey has not been carried out and the plan for street vending has not been formulated.

Thus the bill provides for enough safeguards to protect street vendors interests.

The thrust of the bill is on ''natural market'', which has been defined under the Bill. The entire planning exercise has to ensure that the provision of space or area for street vending is reasonable and consistent with existing natural markets. Thus, natural locations where there is a constant congregation of buyers and sellers will be protected under the bill.

The bill provides for the establishment of an independent dispute redressal mechanism under the chairmanship of retired judicial officers to maintain impartiality towards grievance redressal of street vendors.

The bill provides for time period for release of seized goods, for both perishable and non-perishable goods. In case of non-perishable goods, the local authority is required to release the goods within two working days and in case of perishable goods, the goods shall be released the same day, of the claim being made.

The bill also provides for promotional measures to be undertaken by the government towards availability of credit, insurance and other welfare schemes of social security, capacity building programmes, research, education and training programme etc for street vendors.

Section 29 of the bill provides for protection of street vendors from harassment by police and other authorities and provides for an overriding clause to ensure they carry on their business without the fear of harassment by the authorities under any other law.

The bill specifically provides that the rules have to be notified within one year of its commencement, and schemes within six months of its commencement to prevent delay in implementation.

The bill is aimed at creating a conducive atmosphere for street vendors to do their business in dignity and is likely to help in giving livelihood protection to about 10 million families.