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Livelihood

The report argues that street vendors who are expressly recognised and protected by the Street Vendors Act 2014 continue to be stigmatized as “encroachers” and face the usual official and unofficial consequences including extortion, harassment and evictions. State apparatus has not fully implemented the law in most states. Moreover, by evicting the vendors and creating novending zones before enumeration, state authorities as well as local administrations have been in clear conflict with the law. Unfortunately, the courts have mostly sided with the government and upheld evictions.

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Street vending is typically self-regulated by informal but codified norms of space allocation. Vendors, in most cases, allocate/occupy spots based on the rule of first possession. Kettles (2006) argues self-regulation brings efficiency and reduces conflicts through the identification of “valuable” revenue-generating vending sites. For the administration, such self-regulation reduces the burden to identify and allocate vending spots. More importantly, formalising existing informal practices increases compliance, reducing the need for enforcement.

In this article, we deal with a question central to urban planning: How should the Indian government, in light of Street Vendors Act 2014, formalise and allocate of rights to public spaces?

Recap of Street Vendors Act 2014

The Street Vendors Act 2014 seeks to formalize the existing space allocation to a great extent instead of allocating de novo. It attempts to formalize all existing vendors and prohibits declaring existing natural markets into no-vending zones. The Act necessitates the formation of a local governance body, called the Town Vending Committee (TVC), responsible for the regulation of vendors. The Committee is mandated to survey all vendors and issue Certificates of Vending (CoV) to all identified vendors.

The central problem is ultimately determining a method to the madness around the use of public spaces such that interests of all parties, especially vendors, are met. Put another way, this requires some process to determine and assign user rights to vendors.

Formalising vendors will require formalising usufructuary vending rights

The Act approaches the question of assigning property rights, particularly user rights to a particular spot, to vendors in conflicting terms. On the one hand, Section 29(1) expressly declares that the Act confers no “temporary, permanent or perpetual right of carrying out vending activities in the vending zones allotted to him or in respect of any place on which he carries on such vending activity.”

On the other hand, section 5(1)(c), for example, mentions a condition of non-transferability for issuance of CoV. This condition prohibits the transfer of CoV, rent or even the place specified in the CoV to any other person. It implies, place of vending is ‘specific’ and it is to be specified in the CoV.

Three aspects of implementation require careful attention

First, while the Act protects existing vendors by requiring local governments to accommodate them until the upper limit of 2.5% of the local population is reached, it leaves the determination of holding capacity, applicable to new vendors, to the local authority. The principles the state government lays out in determining the formula for calculating holding capacity will determine how inclusive or accommodative the local government will be of new vendors.

Second, if the demand for CoV from existing vendors and new applicants exceeds the holding capacity, the Act suggests carrying out a draw of lots. While section 4(3) of the Act seems to equate existing and new vendors, we recommend prioritising existing vendors over new applicants. The manner in which state governments balance the demands of existing and new applicants, especially when it exceeds holding capacity and 2.5% of the population, have implications on vendor livelihoods and urban space management.

Third, the Act is ambiguous on whether or not to assign property rights to a specific spot to a vendor. There may be different ways to approach this: allocation of exclusive rights to a site to the vendor, allocation on the time-sharing basis (in a day, month, or season) or allocation of an area without specifying the vending site. Each of these policy choices has pros and cons, and has a bearing on the degree of vendor formalisation.

Editor’s Note: The authors published a much more extensive report on the Street Vendors Act of 2014 titled “Progress Report: Implementing the Street Vendors Act 2014”available on Centre for Civil Society’s website at https://tinyurl.com/y4bywn6o. For more information about Centre for Civil Society, please visit their main website at https://www.ccs.in/.

Street vending is a source of livelihood for many urban poor, and of affordable and essential goods to the public. In India, stories of vendor harassment by the local administration as well as the police are ubiquitous. It appears to be less about vendor rights and more about the power that different actors exercise over public spaces.

One must look at the process whereby a new hawker enters the trade . . . Then starts the bargain with the local policeman, the municipal recovery inspector, the influential (known) hawker-cum-leader and even the local goon for permission to engage in hawking activity at a particular location . . . A similar negotiation takes place for erecting a hut in a slum locality…payment to be made to the slumlord (a volunteer of some political party)…expected to be a part of the vote bank of the concerned political party. Subsequent hafta payments continue unless the hawker becomes politically active, or joins the local mafia . . .(note 1)

There are several issues at the heart of the street vending debate and assigning rights over the use of public space is the most contentious. A vendor’s right to occupation, for example, conflicts with commuters’ rights to move freely. The central policy problem is managing such conflicting and competing interests of vendors, pavement users, local residents, vehicular traffic and urban space managers.

NOTES

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An estimated one crore people in India rely on street vending for their livelihoods, supplying affordable and essential goods to the public and contributing directly to economic growth. However, they operate in public spaces over which different stakeholders claim contrasting and competing interests. In addition, a lack of clarity on their rights encourages informal governance and allows local authorities to benefit from flourishing channels of rent-seeking.

The Central Government, in a landmark event, enacted the Street Vendors Act 2014 with the objective of protecting and regulating the street vendors of the country. The Act mandates states to create rules, schemes and local governance structures, in consonance with the spirit of the Central Act, to legitimize the rights of vendors.

This report evaluates the progress made in institutionalizing mechanisms to protect and regulate vending since the past four years. There are three parts to the report: a look at the interpretation of the Act by the Higher Courts, a statistical capture of the progress by states in implementing the Act, and a case study of two urban cities to explore how the new Act is reshaping urban space management.

Through an analysis of 57 court judgements, RTI responses on 11 questions from 30 states, and review of orders and meeting minutes of 2 Town Vending Committees, we found that the Act notwithstanding, vendors continue to be excluded from critical urban space management decisions. Four years after enactment, progress across the board on implementing the mandate of the Act is sluggish.

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In 2014, Government of India (GoI) made it a policy priority to improve the business environment in the country. This prioritisation derived from India's lacklustre performance on the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index that ranks 190 countries on their business regulatory environment. Since 2003, the World Bank has measured the time, cost and regulation of entry, operation and exit for firms, and ranked countries based on these measurements and government reporting. In addition, in 2017 the IDFC Institute conducted an enterprise survey of over 3,000 manufacturing firms across India, to assess the business regulatory environment 'from the viewpoint of manufacturing firms'. However, these studies have significant gaps.

First, we do not have a deep understanding of the substantive and qualitative changes undertaken by different states. Second, ubiquitous urban services provided by micro, small and medium enterprises have found short shrift in the reporting on business climate reforms. Third, none of the studies give us a sense of the next granular steps in the reform process. Our Doing Business in Delhi addresses some of these questions. It studies the regulatory barriers to operate restaurants, meat shops and e-waste recycling plants in Delhi, and evaluates the business reforms conducted between 2016 to 2018.

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Due to a lack of clarity in the judicial decisions, in 2009, the Street Vendors Policy 2004 was revised as the ‘National Policy on Urban Street Vendors 2009’. The revised policy was not legally binding and made little progress on the matter of street vendors. In 2010, the Supreme Court directed the government to enact a law regulating street vending and thus, the Street Vendors Bill 2012 was drafted. The Bill was passed in both houses by February 2014 and became the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014. This Act was drafted with the legislative intent of protecting the livelihood rights of street vendors as well as regulating street vending through demarcation of vending zones, conditions for and restrictions on street vending. The Act now governs over all matters in regards to the rights and duties of the street vendors in India. It also provides for confiscation of goods that are being sold by street vendors to be cataloged properly.

It is in this context that Centre for Civil Society – a Delhi-based think tank decided to take up a study of the implementation of 2014 Act across India and come up with a matrix and an index to rank states. We filed applications under the Right to Information Act, 2005 across India, made more than 250 phone calls to expedite the RTI reply process, compiled court judgments and referred to other secondary sources such as news stories.

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READ THE REVISED STREET VENDOR ACT COMPLIANCE RANKINGS

Street vendors’ rights to carry on their trade in public spaces, has been the subject matter of debate and discussion in India for a very long time. In fact it has taken numerous judgments of the Supreme Court and High Court to recognize their rights and shape up a statutory regime. This scenario raises an important question, as to what is the kind of property rights enjoyed by these street vendors. A study was undertaken to analyse this aspect and answer some key questions pertaining to the gradual changes that occurred in the overall concept of property rights in India.

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Against the post-New Industrial Policy (1991) growth witnessed in large-scale industries, a corresponding boom in the small and mid-sized domestic industry has been conspicuously absent. The paper seeks to document the causes for the same. Further, a comparative evaluation of Indian MSMEs with those operating in other BRICS nations will be conducted, in an attempt to understand the overall effect of the business, policy and legal/regulatory environment on the growth of MSMEs.

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This paper presents case studies of two tribal villages - Mendha Lekha and Jamguda - successfully running forest-based bamboo businesses under the community forest rights provisions of Forest Rights Act (2006). We have documented the issues faced by the villagers in claiming community forest rights, issues faced in harvesting and sale of bamboo, and business practices adopted by both the villages.

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