Hawkers and street vendors across the city share a precarious existence. They subsist in a limbo of vague civic policies and delayed allotment of licenses which leaves them with little choice but to set up unauthorised shops wherever they find the space.
Even the Supreme Court has recognised their right to make a living as a fundamental constitutional guarantee and provided them with much-welcomed relief in the form of a stay on evictions till December 31. But without a concrete law, they will keep suffering at the hands of those who would extract their “share” from whatever little these vendors earn as a price to keep their business running.
Most street vendors are at the mercy of the authorities who fine them for illegally occupying areas for business. When the Enforcement Department of the New Delhi Municipal Council confiscates their goods, they have to pay fines, substantial amounts compared to their earning, just to reclaim them. There are also the unnamed unofficial ‘collectors’ who turn up once a week and leave only when their price is met.
Such incidents are a common menace for many hawkers, but they fear for their livelihood and refuse to speak out. The draft bill which proposes to codify and clarify the arbitrary rules governing hawking in the city will prove to be a boon for these mistreated self-employed entrepreneurs. Although they might be at fault at times for literally overstepping their bounds, admits one vendor, the current law is such that they have no other option.