Veggie vendors, locals oppose curbs imposed by south Delhi RWA, file police complaint

Updated on Sep 09, 2020 04:29 AM IST

In the complaint filed on September 3 at the Malviya Nagar police station, the hawkers said the RWA charges them Rs 1,200 annually for vending in the area. The vendors were allowed to do business in the locality in August.

In their written statement, Ramesh and Mukesh Kumar, the vendors, said they were not allowed to sell vegetables inside the colony while suppliers to the local vegetable shop and others were not barred from entering it.(HT file photo)
In their written statement, Ramesh and Mukesh Kumar, the vendors, said they were not allowed to sell vegetables inside the colony while suppliers to the local vegetable shop and others were not barred from entering it.(HT file photo)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByRisha Chitlangia

A resident of South Delhi’s Navjivan Vihar and two vegetable vendors have filed a police complaint against the local resident welfare association (RWA) for stopping vendors from running their business inside the residential neighbourhood during lockdown and even after the unlock process started.

In the complaint filed on September 3 at the Malviya Nagar police station, the hawkers said the RWA charges them Rs 1,200 annually for vending in the area. The vendors were allowed to do business in the locality in August.

The complaint filed by a resident of the locality, along with written statements of the vendors, says the act of the RWA “infringes with the fundamental freedom under the Indian Constitution, under Article 19(1)G—the freedom to practice any trade, profession, or occupation--of the vendors”.

In their written statement, Ramesh and Mukesh Kumar, the vendors, said they were not allowed to sell vegetables inside the colony while suppliers to the local vegetable shop and others were not barred from entering it.

Speaking to HT on the phone, Mukesh said, “We have been paying Rs 1,200 annually for years to the RWAs as charges to sell vegetables in the area. This year we didn’t pay anything. We filed the complaint after we got support from some residents, also so that it doesn’t happen to us again.”

Ramesh said, “I have been selling vegetables here for years. We were not allowed but domestic helps, drivers, etc., were given entry. We were not allowed to enter the colony even after the government’s order.”

Ruby Makhija, secretary of Navjivan Vihar RWA, said, “Initially, we stationed them at the colony gates. The idea was to minimise movement to control Covid-19. We have an in-house Safal (vegetable) store but we did not want these vendors to suffer. So we didn’t stop people from buying stuff from them. In fact, residents placed orders on the phone to them and our guards used to deliver their (vendors’) goods. After the government’s order in July, we allowed them to get back to work.”

Atul Thakur, deputy commissioner of police (South), said. “The RWA members are being spoken to and the matter is being verified for appropriate action.”

Social scientist Manisha Priyam, a resident of Navijivan Vihar, who helped the vendors, said the RWA’s decision was an attack on the livelihood of poor people. “What part of the unlock order barred any street vendors from sitting on public streets? There could have been reasonable restrictions on them, they could have sat at one place near the colony market, which was operating and fully functional.”

“Under the Sodan Singh versus SDMC judgment, street vending is a fundamental right under Article 19.1.G. What power does RWA have to usurp fundamental rights of citizens, specifically weak and vulnerable?” she said.

Vinod Arora, former president of the society, and many others opposed the RWA decision. Arora said, “I have been against the idea of charging vendors. But we couldn’t discontinue it as residents wanted it.”

Those working for the rights of street vendors and urban poor are also against RWAs charging vendors.

Indu Prakash, a member of the Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee for homeless shelters, who spoke to the two vendors said, “Who are RWAs to charge vendors for working in their locality? The colony roads are public land and everyone has equal rights over it. This is nothing but harassment of urban poor.”

Makhija, who joined the office in 2017, said several other RWAs charge vendors. Makhija said, “The practice of charging Rs 100 a month (Rs 1,200 annually) from vendors has been on for the past 7-8 years. As per the executive committee decision, with this Rs 100, we provide them with cloth bags and discourage them from using plastic…But this year due to the crisis, we didn’t charge them at all as they too are going through a financial crisis.”

RWAs in the city are divided over the charge. Some say it is “illegal”, while others say they have been doing a lot of work outside their mandate such as security, maintenance of parks, etc.

Rajiv Kakria, member of E Block GK-I RWA said, “We introduced vendor passes 15 years ago and it worked wonders in maintaining discipline, etc. The token amount we collect is for expenses incurred in the verification process etc...RWAs are performing duties way beyond their mandate and have to figure out ways to stay afloat financially.”

But Atul Goyal, president of URJA, a collective of RWAs in Delhi, said, “We don’t approve of such charges taken by RWAs, as there are no rules which empower them to do so. There is no doubt RWAs do a lot of work but we don’t have powers to charge vendors.”

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