The state government may have cleared the hawkers’ policy in a rush ahead of the 2017 civic polls, but the policy is unlikely to come into effect until April — after the polls are over.
This means the policy, meant to regulate hawking by issuing licences, marking out spots where hawking is allowed and preventing hawkers from encroaching on footpaths and railway stations, won’t help citizens for the next few months at least.
Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has said the new town vending committee will only be formed after new corporators are elected. “We can start working on implementing the policy only once we receive orders from the state. But as the code of conduct for the polls is due any time now, the policy will be on hold and will be implemented only after April,” said a senior civic official, not wishing to be named.
In a last-minute, unexpected move, the state on Tuesday cleared the hawkers’ policy that has been in cold storage for more than two years now. According to the policy, only people who are domiciles of Maharashtra (having spent 15 years living in the state) will be considered for while vending licences are issued. The policy also says a central town vending committee headed by the municipal commissioner will demarcate hawking zones.
The policy’s provision have, however, not gone down well with hawkers, many of whom are not domiciles. Calling the decision undemocratic, Dayashankar Singh, the founder of the Azad hawkers union, said they will hold a protest march.
“The policy in every other city is based on the Street Vendors Act, which talks about the rights and livelihoods of the vendors. This move, however, is against all that. Many hawkers in the city have been working here for more than 15 years, but many don’t have domicile certificates. Will the authorities take away their right to livelihood?” Singh said.
The hawkers’ policy has been in the works for nearly three years now, after the Street Vendors Act was passed in February 2014. The BMC had then started a week-long survey and distributed 1.2 lakh forms to record the number of hawkers in the city. The civic body completed the survey in 2015 and received 99,435 forms. Until Tuesday, however, except for random anti-encroachment drives, no other action was taken against unlicenced hawkers.
Congress against domicile clause
A day after the state cabinet approved the hawkers’ policy, the Congress has opposed the provision of only giving licences to domiciles and has claimed the state was interfering in a law passed by the Centre.
The party said the decision to appoint a sub-committee of the cabinet to further deliberate on the provision was unconstitutional and demeaned the dignity of the Parliament, which passed the Street Vendors Act in 2014.
Congress city chief Sanjay Nirupam said the Bharatiya Janata Party was fooling hawkers by announcing the policy was approved. Nirupam claimed the “interference” by the state government in a law passed by the Centre to govern hawkers was unconstitutional and unwarranted. He demanded the law be implemented in letter and spirit by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation(BMC).
An official from the urban development department, however, refuted the Congress’ claim and said the government has every right to frame a policy suitable for its state, following the guidelines in the law.
The Congress’ reaction to the BJP-led state government’s decision comes at a time when both parties are trying to woo the city’s north Indian community ahead of the crucial civic polls.
A large number of hawkers belong to communities from north India.
“The BJP-Shiv Sena government wants to reap political fruits by just making announcements. Neither the government nor the civic body by the ruling parties want the implementation of the hawkers’ policy as officials in the civic body mint Rs300 crore a month from the illegal hawkers,” Nirupam claimed.
While the Congress is using the policy to try and win hawkers over by promising to fight for them, the BJP has said the decision to pass the policy was in the interest of hawkers.