Street vendor unions ask government to implement law protecting their rights

The Bruhat Bangalore Beedhi Vyaapaari Sanghatanegala Okkoota is (Federation of Street Vendor Unions of Bangalore) is calling for a protest rally and a bundh on street vending on Monday, June 15th. The protest march is scheduled for 10 am from City railway station to Freedom Park. Thousands of vendors are expected to participate from all eight zones of BBMP. This come in the light of the spate of evictions of street vendors by Bangalore’s police (Law and Order and Traffic) and BBMP officials.

While the UPA-2  has brought in the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihoods and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 in March 2014, the government of Karnataka is yet to implement the act. The act makes it clear street vending is a right, it is legal and that arbitrary evictions cannot take place. However, inspite of such an act being in force, police officials and the BBMP violate the act. In addition to evicting street vendors, the State government (as also the Centre) is moving towards welcoming FDI in retail. Once large stores like Walmart, Target are established small retail stores and street vendors will be adversely affected. The rally and bandh are being organised to protest against these evictions, to demand that FDI in retail not be allowed and to ask that the government implement the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihoods and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014.

Background

During eviction, many officials use degrading language while addressing street vendors and sometimes physically abuse them. Since they work on the streets, they are treated with disrespect.  Due to constant evictions, their lives are more difficult than it already is. In addition, the police ask for bribes as well; and they are required to pay them off with what little money they have.

The Supreme Court of India observed how the police and government officials treat street vendors in the case of Maharashtra Ekta Hawkers Union and another v/s Municipal Corporation, Greater Mumbai and others, Civil Appeal Nos. 4156-4157/2002, decided on 9 September, 2013 as follows: “Unfortunately, the street vendors / hawkers have received raw treatment from the State apparatus before and even after the independence. They are a harassed lot and are constantly victimized by the officials of the local authorities, the police, etc., who regularly target them for extra income and treat them with extreme contempt. The goods and belongings of the street vendors / hawkers are thrown to the ground and destroyed at regular intervals if they are not able to meet the demands of the officials. Perhaps these minions in the administration have not understood meaning of the term “dignity” enshrined in the preamble of the Constitution.”

There are lakhs of street vendors in Bangalore. Numerous families survive on street vending. The city’s poor and middle class benefit from receiving goods from street vendors at lower prices. It is certain that lakhs of people in the city benefit from the work of street vendors. As per law, street vendors are not to be treated as criminals or beggars, rather, they are recognised as respectable and self-reliant entrepreneurs.

As per the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014, a street vendor is defined in Section 2(1)(l) as follows: “Street Vendor” means a person engaged in vending of articles, goods, wares, food items or merchandise of everyday use or offering services to the general public, in a street, lane, side walk, footpath, pavement, public park or any other public place or private area, from a temporary built up structure or by moving from place to place and includes hawker, peddler, squatter and all other synonymous terms which may be local or region specific; and the words “street vending” with their grammatical variations and cognate expressions, shall be construed accordingly

With respect to the regulation of street vending, Section 3(3) of the Act provides that: No street vendor shall be evicted or, as the case may be, relocated till the survey specified under sub-section (1) has been completed and the certificate of vending is issued to all street vendors.

Therefore, it is illegal to evict any street vendor in this country from a road, footpath, gully or lane or vendors sitting or standing or doing business form a hand pushed cart in public places without following the procedure laid down in the law.

The Union says that street vendors are not against pedestrians, and that they too are pedestrians. Thus it is wrong to evict them in the name of pedestrians. If there is any problem, the BBMP must constitute a Town Vending Committee to discuss where business can take place and where it cannot.

Despite having a law that protects street vendors’ livelihood, the authorities find ways to defeat its purpose. The police and BBMP are acting outside the scope of the law. The street vendors union says that it can no longer tolerate authorities working outside the law, and the injustice caused to them. The protest is a means of fighting for their right to vend, and for their dignity and equality.

Their demands

  1. Immediately stop the eviction of street vendors
  2. Immediately allow evicted street vendors to set up their stalls in their original place
  3. Reject approval of FDI in retail
  4. Implement provisions of loans, insurance, social security and other schemes as per Section 31 for street vendors
  5. Authorities should treat street vendors with respect
  6. Action should be taken against all police stations and BBMP offices which violate the rights of street vendors

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2 Comments

  1. Misusing public infrastructure serves two purposes as far as the govt. is concerned – it creates a lot of nuisance and hazards for the residents – one major goal. The other is that the vendors themselves are not so sure they can occupy public places, which is again used by the govt. to create a feeling of insecurity among them and allows their officials to exploit them, another major goal.

    In a country such as ours with huge resources (however much the govt. may deny) the govt has deliberately kept the weaker section from becoming useful to society in a way that may enjoy a good livelihood and good facilities. Instead, it uses such people to achieve its goal of creating a nuisance for others.

    Most deplorable that the vendors have been conned into fighting for their “rights” to vend on streets! That is like saying, that they want the right to be prisoners and they should not be evicted from their prison cells. This ensures a continual fight with those who are inconvenienced.

    Thankfully, the world govt. has engineered a financial crisis so that it will be impossible for anyone but their cronies to look forward to a better future. The thought of demanding a better job or a better facilities does not even occur to the ‘vendors’. What choices are available to the vendors: create riots for their local MLA, or put up posters or may be sell adulterated food or …?

    As long as these ‘vendors’ are useful to the ‘govt.’, there will be no change.

  2. I am torn on this one. On one hand, I understand the need to protect the livelihood of the vendors, but on the other hand, there are numerous times I’ve been almost hit by a car or TT because I had to walk on the road as the vendors had taken over all available walking path. In addition, without trash pick up or water, the areas around the street vendors quickly becomes a health hazard.
    It’s ok to protect the rights, but how do you improve the situation?

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