About time we made space for street vendors in Delhi | Opinion
Street vendors across Delhi are facing the threat of eviction and losing their livelihood despite Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 being in place.
The famous roadside books bazaar at Daryaganj has not been held for the last four weeks following the Delhi high court’s order banning weekly market at Netaji Subhash Marg, which is a no-hawking zone, in the Walled City.
The court’s order was based on the report of the Delhi traffic police citing high traffic volume on the arterial road, and roadside hawking is adding to congestion in the area. On the court’s direction, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation is making efforts to relocate the vendors.
Today, street vendors across the national capital are facing the threat of eviction and losing their livelihood despite the Street Vendors (Delhi government ) Act, 2014, in place.
The reason: the Act is yet to be implemented in the city five years after it was passed by Parliament.
While many view street vendors as “encroachers”, civil society members say they play a crucial role in ensuring public safety, especially of women, as they are the eyes on the roads. But due to lack of planning by government agencies and delay in the implementation of the Street Vendors’ Act, increase in number of vendors in certain areas is leading to congestion and problem of encroachment of public spaces.
With government agencies taking baby steps in making the city pedestrian-friendly—pedestrianisation of Ajmal Khan Road in Karol Bagh is a success story—there is a need to make space for street vendors to ensure effective utilisation of public spaces.
One of the reasons why most trader organisations in the city are against pedestrianisation of markets is their fear of public spaces (common areas) getting encroached by street vendors.
There is a need to regulate street vendors and this can be done only by implementing the Street Vendors’ Act.
Arbind Singh, national coordinator of the National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI), says such problems won’t have arisen had the Delhi government implemented the Act in time. “Vendors are living in uncertainty and in a state of fear. There is a need to provide them space where they can earn their livelihood without any fear,” says Singh.
The Act, which was passed by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government just before the Lok Sabha elections in 2014, was notified in May 2014. But the rules and scheme, which are essential for the implementation of the Act, were notified only in 2016 and April 2019 respectively. The Delhi government had notified the scheme for the first time in 2015, but it was challenged by the street vendors’ organisations in the Delhi high court.
Two of the key components for the implementation of the Act are: identification of genuine street vendors and formation of Town Vending Committee (TVC), which are tasked with smooth implementation of the Act.
But these two components are at the heart of the problem. Parth Shah, president of Centre for Civil Society, say that identification of street vendors is essential and could have been done effectively using the latest technological tools. Shah says that there are over three lakh vendors in the city. “It is hard to believe that the government couldn’t find street vendors for filling the posts in TVCs,” said Shah. In January 2019, CCS had come out with a Progress report on Implementing The Street Vendors Act 2014.
The Delhi government had notified the 27 TVCs in September 2018. But a large number of TVCs notified by the Delhi government didn’t have the requisite number of street vendors as members as mandated in the Act.
Singh blames the government’s decision to form 27 TVCs —initially the plan was to form 70 TVCs—for the delay in the implementation of the Act. The Delhi government officials refute the claims and assure that it will be completed soon. They say the elections to fill the vacant posts were held recently.
It is about time the state government to expedite the process and implement the Act which will be a win-win situation for everyone.