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Tenth Anniversary of the Street Vendors Act 2014

Context:

The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014, recently marked its tenth anniversary. This milestone represents the culmination of four decades of legal evolution and advocacy by street vendor movements in India

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Street Vendors Act
  2. Challenges Faced by Street Vendors in India

Street Vendors Act

The Street Vendors Act is a significant legislation aimed at protecting and regulating street vending in Indian cities. Here are some key aspects of the Street Vendors Act and associated challenges:

Street Vendors Act:

  • Scope and Purpose: The Act is designed to protect and regulate street vending across Indian cities by involving local authorities in establishing designated vending zones. It recognizes the importance of street vendors in urban life, contributing to food distribution and cultural identity, and aims to secure their livelihoods and integrate their activities into formal urban planning.
  • Town Vending Committees (TVCs): The Act establishes Town Vending Committees (TVCs), which include street vendor representatives, with women vendors constituting 33% of this group. These committees are responsible for the inclusion of vendors in designated zones and handling grievances through mechanisms like the Grievance Redressal Committee.
  • Roles and Responsibilities: The Act clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of vendors and government at different levels. It requires States/Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) to conduct a survey to identify street vendors at least once every five years.
Implementation Challenges:
  • Despite the protections outlined in the Act, street vendors frequently face harassment and eviction, partly due to persistent bureaucratic views of vending as an illegal activity.
  • TVCs often remain under the control of city authorities rather than representing the vendors themselves, with women’s representation often being tokenistic.
  • The Act struggles to integrate with broader urban governance frameworks, such as those established by the 74th Constitutional Amendment. ULBs often lack the power and resources to effectively implement the Act.
  • The prevailing vision of a ‘world-class city’ frequently excludes street vendors, affecting urban planning and policy, and leading to designs and regulations that marginalize vendors.
Ways to Strengthen the Law:
  • Effective implementation is crucial and may require initial top-down guidance from higher government levels, such as the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
  • Over time, a shift towards more decentralized governance is essential to tailor strategies to the diverse local contexts of vendors across the nation.
  • Policies and urban planning guidelines must be revised to better incorporate street vending, enhancing the capacities of ULBs to include vendors in city planning.
  • Creative use of the Act’s provisions is needed to address emerging issues such as climate change impacts, increased competition from e-commerce, and the proliferation of vendors.
  • Leveraging components of national missions like the National Urban Livelihood Mission can help innovate and adapt to these changing realities.

Challenges Faced by Street Vendors in India

Street vendors in India face a myriad of challenges despite the existence of the Street Vendors Act. Here are some of the prominent challenges:

  • Uneven Enforcement of Regulations: Many street vendors operate without licenses due to uneven enforcement of regulations. This makes them vulnerable to eviction and harassment by authorities and local intermediaries.
  • Bribery and Corruption: Reports indicate that street vendors are often forced to pay bribes to police and local authorities, further impacting their already meagre earnings and perpetuating a cycle of corruption.
  • Economic Insecurity: Saturation in certain areas and competition from established businesses lead to unpredictable income and economic insecurity among street vendors. Limited access to formal credit exacerbates this issue.
  • Limited Licenses: The number of licenses issued for street vending is often insufficient to accommodate the actual number of vendors. For example, Mumbai has a ceiling of around 15,000 licenses, whereas there are an estimated 2.5 lakh vendors in the city.
  • Lack of Infrastructure: Street vendors often lack access to basic infrastructure such as clean water, sanitation facilities, and waste disposal. This not only poses health hazards for vendors but also for customers.
  • Livelihood Disruption: Urban development projects and road widening initiatives frequently lead to the displacement of street vendors, causing disruption to their livelihoods without providing adequate alternative arrangements.
  • Occupational Hazards: Street vendors work in environments that are often hazardous to their health, such as exposure to vehicular pollution, extreme weather conditions, and physical strain from carrying heavy loads.

-Source: The Hindu


May 2024
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