Protection of Livelihood of Street Vendors: Analysis

“Street vendor” means a person engaged in vending of articles, goods, wares, food items or merchandise of everyday use or offering services to the general public, in a street, lane, side walk, footpath, pavement, public park or any other public place or private area, from a temporary built up structure or by moving from place to place and includes hawker, peddler, squatter and all other synonymous terms which may be local or region specific. 

Problems faced by the street vendors

Street vendors contribute significantly to the urban distribution system, but in return face humiliation, harassment and confiscation threats from police officers and inspectors from the local governing bodies. The risk of displacement often increases in the context of elections, mega-events or efforts to beautify city centers. Since street vendors spend the majority of their working time on open roads, they are vulnerable to different types of diseases like migraines, hyper-acidity, hypertension and high blood pressure due to pollution. The lack of toilets has an adverse effect on women’s health and many suffer from urinary tract infections and kidney ailments. 

In 1989, the Supreme Court held that street vendors have a fundamental right to carry on their trade or business subject to regulation and reasonable restrictions.

In 2004, the central government formulated the National Policy on Urban Street Vendors to recognize the constitutional right of street vendors to practice any profession (street vending) without causing overcrowded public spaces.

In 2009, the Policy was revised and accompanied by a model law on street vending which could be adopted by state governments, with modifications suited to their geographical and local conditions.

In 2010, the Supreme Court directed the government (central/state) to enact a law by June 2011 to recognize the livelihood rights of street vendors and regulate vending activities.

In 2011, the National Advisory Council (NAC) recommended enacting a central law.

Several states including Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa have enacted laws and policies on street vending.

Finally the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014  has been passed which aims at protecting the livelihood rights of street vendors as well as regulate street vending through demarcation of vending zones, conditions for and restrictions on street vending.

Key features of the Act are:

A. Town Vending Committee 

• One or more TVC may be constituted in each local authority, zone or ward. The TVC will specify the time limit for issue and renewal of registration and vending certificate. It will also keep records of street vendors including the stall allotted for vending, category of vending and the business carried out. 

• The TVC shall comprise of 

(a) the municipal commissioner
(b) Representatives of street vendors (at least 40 per cent of the TVC, of which one-third are women); and 
(c) Representatives of the local authority, planning authority, local police, traffic police, resident welfare associations, banks, and other traders associations. 

• The Act also requires the representation of SCs, STs, OBCs, minorities and disabled persons in the TVC. 

B. Registration and issue of vending certificate to Street Vendors 

•  Any person (above the age of 14 years) intending to undertake any street vending activity may register with the Town Vending Committee (TVC) which may be constituted in each local authority. 

• Any registered person may apply to the TVC for a vending certificate. The criteria on the basis of which vending certificates will be issued shall be specified in the street vending scheme developed by the state government. The criteria may include preference for Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward Classes (OBCs), minorities, women and disabled persons. The TVC may charge a vending fee. 

• Only those persons with a vending certificate are permitted to work as street vendors. Every street vendor has the right to undertake vending activities in the vending zone specified in the certificate. A street vendor shall not be prevented from exercising this right by any person, police or any authority under any other law. 

• The certificate can be issued to a stationary, mobile or any other vendor and will specify the vending zone, time period for carrying on the vending activities, and other conditions and restrictions on street vending. 

• Individuals, who have been issued a vending certificate before the commencement of this Act, will continue to be street vendors for the period specified in the certificate. 

C. Role of the state government and the local authority 

• Every local authority shall in consultation with the planning authority prepare a street vending plan once in every five years. The plan shall determine spatial vending zones as restriction-free, restricted and no-vending zones as well as other changes required for accommodating existing and future street vendors. 

• Some of the parameters to be considered in the plan are: the area available for street vending is reasonable, does not lead to overcrowding, and is consistent with existing natural markets (i.e. a market where buyers and sellers have traditionally congregated for sale and purchase of specific goods for more than a specified period of time). 

• The state government shall frame a street vending scheme specifying: (a) criteria and process for registration and issue of vending certificate; (b) eviction and relocation of street vendors and manner of confiscation of goods; (c) process for and disposal of appeals; (d) principles for determining vending zones.

D. Eviction and Relocation of Street Vendors and Penalty 

• The local authority may evict the street vendor, if he consistently fails to comply with the provisions of the Bill. The goods of the vendors may also be confiscated in the manner specified in the street vending scheme. 

• The local authority can relocate the street vendors for: (a) creating public nuisance; (b) obstructing public movement; or (c) any other public purpose. The street vendor shall be entitled to a new vending site. 

• The local authority shall give seven days notice to the street vendor before relocating or evicting him. 

• A maximum penalty of Rs 2000 may be imposed on a street vendor if he:(a) vends without a vending certificate, beyond the designated zone or specified timings; or (b) violates the terms of the vending certificate or any other provisions of the Bill. The penalty will be decided by the local authority. 

E. Grievance Redressal Mechanism 

• Street vendors who have a grievance can appeal to a dispute redressal committee constituted by the local authority. The committee shall consist of one sub judge/judicial magistrate or an executive magistrate and other persons experienced in street vending and natural markets. The committee has to redress the grievance within the time period specified in the scheme. 

• An appeal against the decision of the committee shall lie with the local authority. 

• The TVC may cancel or suspend a street vendor’s vending certificate for breach of provisions of the Bill, vending certificate or scheme. An appeal against the decision of the TVC shall lie with the local authority.

F. Miscellaneous

• This Bill shall not apply to Railways land, premises and trains.

• The street vendor shall give undertaking that the vending business shall carry out by himself or any of his family members and he/she doesn’t have any other means of livelihood.

•Every vendor has duty to 

 keep clean and maintain hygienic conditions; 

 Pay periodic maintenance charges as determined by local authority.

 Remove his goods/wares if occupies space on time sharing basis

 maintain civic amenities/public properties in vending zone; 

Critical analysis

• There is no provision of consulting TVC while formulating the street vending plan. With the TVC not being consulted while framing the street vending plan, it is not clear whether there are adequate safeguards in ensuring that the plan is effective and that vending zones are decided in a fair and transparent manner.

• Conflict with State Laws: The Bill states that the central law will override any other state law in case there is conflict between the two laws. Under this act, the TVC has a limited role involving the issue and renewal of registration and vending certificates and keeping records of street vendors such as the stall allotted for vending, category of vending and the business carried out. However, in some states such as Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan the laws on street vending (and the Odisha street vendors policy) give the TVC the power to identify and designate vending zones and determine the vending capacity of each zone

• The act specifies that no vendor can be evicted without a 7 day notice by the local authority. Also the vendor will be entitled to a separate vending location. This provision has however been observed only in its breach with vendors being evicted at will based on the whims and fancies of police and local authorities.

• However street vendors act was enacted in 2014 but till now only preliminary effort has been done in actual implementation of this act like framing rules or conducting survey etc. The condition is so worse that TVC has been constituted in many areas but street vendors don’t have any knowledge about powers and functioning of TVC. 

• The  current  act  leaves  a  lot  with  delegated  legislation  and  it  defeats   the purpose of a Central law. Most of the issued are left to the Scheme that is to be framed by the local authorities beginning with the manner of registration to the entire thing.

• The railway accommodates a significant population of street vendors in India but unfortunately railway is excluded from purview of this act. The standing committee has also recommended that railway should be included under purview of this act.

• The undertaking given by person that no other means of livelihood is controversial because suppose any person employed as watchman can look for part time employment as a street vendor. So clause shall be subjected to things such as i/c of person, estimated i/c from applying vending business etc.

• The obligations such as fee for certification, maintenance charges, to maintain public property/hygienic conditions etc. can be cause of breach of conditions by a street vendor because average daily income of street vendors is around Rs 70 as per survey and lead to harassment of vendors by officials. So, ultimately defeat the purpose of enactment of this act.

However there are some flawed provisions in street vendor’s act 2014 but still it is a very good start for creating a harassment free environment for street vendors. There is need to do a lot for purpose of harassment free environment such as training to TVC members, organized elections of street vendors in TVC, apply provisions of this act to railways etc.