The process of making the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) area a ‘smart city’ has cost hundreds of street vendors their livelihoods. It has even cost a life.
A 60-year-old vendor at south Delhi’s Sarojini Nagar market, Vinay Kumar Pandey, had a heart attack this February after some municipal officials raided his stall. They seized his documents and his stall was allegedly ransacked. That day itself Pandey succumbed to a heart attack.
NDMC was selected among the list of 20 smart cities in the country in January this year. The area is home to some of the most rich and influential in the city. Khan Market, Lutyens’ Zone and Gol Market come under the civic body’s jurisdiction.
In a bid to remove encroachments under the Smart City project,the civic body had launched a massive drive in November last year. The drive was primarily aimed at ‘reorganizing vendors’ at all public spaces, including markets like Connaught Place, Sarojini Nagar and Khan Market.
At least 200 vendors had later moved the Delhi High Court challenging the drive. The hearing is going on for two months now.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi too had notified the national policy for Street Vendors’ Act three months ago, which has not yet been implemented by authorities.
“Areas around Rajiv Chowk come under restricted vending area. The ‘Scheme for Street Vendors in the NDMC area’ mentions that no vendor can squat in a public space or obstruct footpaths and walkways meant for public. These vendors also create a major security threat for people,” a senior NDMC official said.
The council has already cleared vendors at the Pallika flea market — outside gate number 6 of Rajiv Chowk Metro station — after a team of security officials from NDMC took more than a week to match licences with the list of authorized vendors. Licences of people, who had rented out their spaces, were cancelled.
Officials also measured the space allotted to each vendor and painted boxes within which they will need to operate.
Sections 330 and 225 of the NDMC Act, 1994, states that licences are to be given through the tehbazari system to vendors who apply for it along with a payment of Rs 1,000. Such licences have to be renewed every five years.
Activists and vendors stated that such mindless eviction was a violation of Section 3.3 of the Street Vendors Act. The section says that no vendor can be evicted till a proper survey of market spaces is conducted and a plan is formulated for their rehabilitation.
Arbind Singh, national coordinator, National Association of Street Vendors of India, said that Town Vending Committees need to be created with immediate effect.
“Unless an alternative is provided to these poor vendors, NDMC cannot remove them. They talk about vendors not having licences. A vendor can obtain a licence only when the council gives it to them. There are vendors who have submitted applications for licences more than a decade ago and have still not got an approval,” Singh said.