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Rights Of Street Vendors And Their Exploitation

The paper examines the rights of street vendors in India. Street vending being an unregulated profession suffered from various law and order problems. Street Vending was not a recognized profession due to which the street vendors had to endure atrocities inflicted on them by the government or by the general public.

In turn, the street vending activities also led to chaos and ruckus on the street and discomfort to masses. Considering the problems related to street vending activities in consonance, there was need for a regulated and codified law to prevent harm to the street vendors and to avoid discomfort to the society. The government of India came up with certain laws to regulate and control street vending activities.

These steps taken by the government put a restriction over the street vendors as well as provided them with the freedom to continue street vending without the fear of exploitation. The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 was put into force in order to legalize street vending activities and to solve conflicts between the street vendors and the general public related to street vending activities.

The set of laws introduced were to put street vending activities under the umbrella of law and order. So, the basic purpose of the enactment of laws were ensure that no rights of street vendors are harmed, and all the duties are performed by them.

Street Vendors make up significant portion of the nation's unorganized industry. In certain places, it is believed that street sellers make up about 2% of the total population. The majority of these street vendors are women in practically every city. For the bulk of the urban population, street vending offers 'cheap' and 'convenient' services in addition to being a source of self-employment for the poor.

Due to its low starting and operating capital requirements, flexible work hours, and ease of entry and exit, street trading is a profession that anyone can enter. They provide individuals from all socioeconomic backgrounds with the necessities, food, and other goods of daily usage at reasonable prices, but they also take up valuable space that should be reserved for pedestrians and automobiles. The street vendors frequently present law and order issues.

From a long time there had been no particular law that governed and protected the rights of the street vendors. Due to the fact that how the vending activities operated was unregulated, the vendors had to deal with a variety of issues, including police extortion and threats of eviction from the municipal authorities.

For example, Due to security concerns, many street sellers were forced to leave the area in 2010 when the Commonwealth Games were hosted. The NGO and the sellers both expressed their outrage at this episode. This occurrence gave rise to the concept of vendor rights protection.

Considering the need for a law specifically governing and regulating the rights of the street vendors the government of India in 2014 passed the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 ('the act'). This was a very important and much needed act on the part of the government. The Act was tabled in the Parliament in the year 2012 by Union Minister of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Kumari Shailja.

The Act recognised the street vendors' occupational rights in a substantial manner and granted them protection from exploitation by unlawful parties and threats of eviction from the government. To legalise street vendors' rights to sell their wares, the Act was passed. This Act was passed in accordance with Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees the right to equality and Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution which provides the freedom to do one's trade, profession, or business.

The Act was created to control street vendor sales by creating a governing body for such sales and preventing congestion on the footpath so that traffic may flow smoothly. This Act envisioned the state as having a duty to acknowledge the rights of the sellers and to offer them social security protection from any type of violation. Since before the Act's passage, vendors were thought to be infringers on public property, the Act now recognises their right to vend, making their activity legal.

The act gives particular conditions and criteria which defines street vendor. According to Section 2(1)(l) of the act,

"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, sidewalk, 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".[1]

The category of vendors falling under the ambit of this definition are recognised as Street Vendors and are provided certain rights, duties and protection under the act.

This particular article would deal with the act that was passed in order to protect the rights of the street vendors and make their work legal so that vending as a profession could be recognised and regulated by law. Considering that no such law had been passed by the government earlier, it was one of the major steps of the government to regulate the activities of street vendors and to protect their only source of income getting destroyed.

The act aims to safeguard street vendors' means of subsistence by giving them a safe environment in which to operate their businesses without worrying about harassment, eviction, or extortion from police or municipal officials, while also regulating street vending for the management of public spaces and traffic.

Background Of The Act
The act was finally passed in 2014 but from earlier times efforts have been made by the Supreme Court as well as various non-governmental organisations to protect the right of street vendors. In the wake of various protests and efforts made by these, the government passed the act in order to protect street vendors. In doing so, India became one of the first countries to take such a step.

The Supreme Court's decision on the constitutionality of street vendors' ability to do their business by selling their wares and services on public streets in the 1980s marked the beginning of this effort by any department of government. The Supreme court has recognised the rights of hawkers to sell cooked food but this is to be done in accordance with the guidelines that has been laid down by the state governments. The court also held that the state cannot impose any unreasonable restriction on the rights of the hawkers to carry on their business.[2]

The court from time to time since then has expressed their hope for an appropriate legislation to be enacted and the problem of hawkers and street vendors to be solved.[3] One factor that has contributed to the situation of street vendors is that, in contrast to other urban populations, street sellers do not participate in begging, theft, or extortion.

They also lack the ability and strength to demand that the government create jobs for them. By working as hawkers and street sellers, they attempt to lead respectable lives. Even after this, The National Association of Street sellers of India (NASVI), an association to protect the rights of street vendors, never gave up fighting for the interests of the street sellers.

Finally, the Supreme Court on 9th September, 2013 passed the judgement stating "All the existing street vendors/hawkers operating across the country shall be allowed to operate till the exercise of registration and creation of vending/ hawking zones is completed in terms of the 2009 policy. Once that exercise is completed, they shall be entitled to operate only in accordance with the orders/directions of the concerned town vending committee."[4]

The Government had also made efforts to protect the rights of street vendors. In relation to this in 2004 the government had passed National Policy on Urban Street Vendors. This policy aimed to foster an atmosphere that supported street sellers in earning a living, while also easing traffic and upholding hygienic standards in public areas and streets. Several municipal bodies chose to ignore this policy as it was not binding in nature. So, even though a step was taken by the government it was not followed and implemented.

The government after taking into account the limitations that this particular policy suffered, amended it and made certain corrections in it and brought out National Policy on Urban Street Vendors, 2009. In the same year, the government had brought a Model Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2009 which was distributed to all the States for legislation but was never enacted by the states.

As a result, several activist groups, notably NASVI (National Association of Street Vendors of India), called for the creation of a federal statute that would apply uniformly across all states and give street vending economic activity national status. As a result, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation created Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill under List III of the Constitution's entries 20 (Economic and Social Planning), 23 (Social Security and Social Insurance; Employment and Unemployment), and 24 (Welfare of Labour including Conditions of Work, Provident Funds, Employers Liability, Workmen's Compensation, Invalidity and Old Age Pensions and Maternity Benefits). This particular bill received the assent of president in 2014 and was enacted as a law. Till now, the street vendors are protected under the act.

Street Vendors (Protection Of Livelihood And Regulation Of Street Vending) Act

The act was passed in accordance with Article 14 and Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution, which provide every Indian citizen the right to life, personal liberty, and the freedom to engage in any profession, trade, or business.

The act is not to be directly implemented by the central government rather a duty has been cast over upon the state governments to implement the act and ensure the protection of rights of street vendors and to see that there is no problem of traffic due to street vending activities.

Under Section 22 of the act, a 'town vending committee' has to be constituted by respective state governments including a chairman and members of the committee. The act also provides various rights to street vendors and also states about the right of the local authority to evict and seize those street vendors whose vending rights are cancelled.
  1. Rights Of Street Vendors:

    Chapter III of the act discusses the rights and obligation of the street vendors. Section 12(1) of the act states that "Every street vendor shall have the right to carry on the business of street vending activities in accordance with the terms and conditions mentioned in the certificate of vending."[5] but this right cannot be exercised in an area that has been embarked as no vending zone. Section 4-7 of the act talks about the issuance of vending certificate. Vending certificate is to be issued only to those street vendors that fall under the criteria mentioned under section 4-7 of the act.

    After consulting with the local vending committee, each vendor has the right to choose a new location for the practice of his street vending.[6] When a vendor is given a space on a time sharing basis, the vendor must utilise the space during that time period and depart it when it expires.[7] The street vendor is responsible for ensuring the protection of public property from any type of harm as well as public health, cleanliness, and civic amenities close to the vending area that has been assigned to him.[8]

    He might be required to pay specific maintenance fees as set forth by the local authority in order to take advantage of such services.[9] These rights and obligations that has been put forth for the street vendors are to be followed at all times in order to ensure proper and controlled regulation of street vending activities.
  2. Town Vending Committee:

    Section 2(1)(m) of the act defines town vending committee as a body constituted by the appropriate Government under section 22 of the act. Section 22 of the act defines the constitution and composition of the town vending committee. The committee is crucial in establishing the rights of street vendors. It has an indirect influence on the local government, which conducts surveys in certain vending locations to determine the area's holding capacity.

    The tern holding capacity is defined under � 2(1)(b) as "the maximum number of street vendors who can in any vending zone and has been determined as such by the local authority on the commendations of the Town Vending Committee." Additionally, the committee grants licences for vending operations to the vendors.
    1. Composition:
      The town vending committee is led by a chairman, and other members are selected from the traffic police, the medical officer, the planning authority, an association of street vendors, an association of market vendors, community interest organisations, and other groups that the government deems appropriate for the welfare of the street vendor nominated by them.

      The chairman of the "town vending committee" is the Municipal Commissioner or the Chief Election Commissioner, as designated by the relevant government. 40% of the representation will come from the community of street sellers, who will be chosen by the street vendors themselves, in order to protect their interests.[10]
    2. Powers and Functions:
      The "town vending committee" will occasionally organise a meeting with jurisdiction over the formulation of rules and regulations as well as the conduct of business and the performance of functions. The committee shall have an office, and the municipal government of that region will supply the necessary space. For the purpose of conducting legal vending activities, the committee shall create the vending plans in accordance with the town's planning authority and local authority.

  3. Regulation of Street Vendors:
    According to Section 3 of the act, a survey must be conducted by the town vending committee every five years in the vicinity where street vendors are expected to be present. The Town Vending Committee shall establish the holding capacity of the street vendors, which shall be two and a half percent of the total population of that ward or locality in the town or city. In accordance with the plan for street vending and the vending zone's holding capacity, the Committee shall also see to it that all street sellers identified in the survey are accommodated in the vending zone.

    The Committee should also make sure that no street vendor is relocated or evicted before the survey is finished and all state vendors have received their certificates of vending. The town vending committee is required by Section 4 of the act to provide vendors who are at least 14 years old with the "vending certificate" as specified by the government. Following the making of such a declaration, a certificate will be issued. No street vendor may be kicked out if they are not included in the town vending committee's survey or are not certified as required by the rules.

    However, it is stipulated that if any vendor had received a vending certificate or other type of permission prior to the commencement of the act, they are exempt. Each vendor is required to sign a statement attesting to the fact that they or a member of their family runs the vending business and that it is their sole source of income.[11] Following the issuance of the vending certificate, such a declaration must be made. However, the act stipulates that if the vendor to whom the certificate is issued passes away or sustains a permanent injury, his or her spouse or dependant child can use the certificate issued to him for the vending purpose.[12]
    1. Issuance of Vending Certificate:
      For the purpose of issuing a vending certificate, each seller must pay a certain fee to the local vending committee. The certificate is valid for a set amount of time and must be renewed once that time period has passed. The town vending committee may suspend the street vendor's licence completely for a period of time and impose a fine if it is determined that the vendor has engaged in fraud, misrepresentation, or other illegal activity while purporting to be a vendor.
    2. Categories of Vendors:
      According to Section 6 of the act, there are 3 categories of vendors that can be issues certificate of vending under the act, namely, a stationary vendor, a mobile vendor and any other vendor as specified under the scheme. Under section 2(1)(k) stationary vendors are defined as "street vendors who carry out vending activities on regular basis at a specific location".

      While under Section 2(1)(d) mobile vendors are defined as "street vendors who carry out vending activities in designated area by moving from one place to another place vending their goods and services." The certificate will be given to the vendors belonging to these categories according on the region in which they operate, along with an identity card for identification purposes.

  4. Provision of Seizure and Eviction:
    The guidelines for the seizure or eviction of street sellers are mentioned in Section 18 of the Act. It specifies that the local government has the jurisdiction to define any zone or part as a non-vending zone and set up the street sellers in a different location on the recommendations of the Town Vending Committee. The local authority also has the ability to expel street sellers who are operating illegally or whose certificates of vending have been revoked in accordance with Section 10 of the Act.

    This Section limits the authority of local governments by stating that no vendor may be relocated or elected by the local authority unless he has given a notice of 30 days, and neither the relocation nor the eviction may be carried out by the local government physically unless the vendor has failed to leave the area within the notice's time frame. A street seller will be required to pay a fine of up to Rs. 250 for each day they are in default if they don't move or leave the area by the time the allotted time has passed.
The method for recovering commodities that have been seized by local authorities is covered in Section 19 of the Act. In accordance with this Section, the local authorities will have the authority to take the vendor's goods in addition to evicting them if the street vendor refuses to leave the area after the period specified in the notice provided under Section 18 of the Act has passed. After paying the prescribed fees, the street vendors whose goods have been seized may reclaim their items.

Thus, it can be said that the act has been made in such a way that it provides full authority to the state governments to regulate the street vending activities in their states and ensure that no chaos or mismanagement is created because of the activity of street vending.

Through the act, various rights and obligations have been laid down upon the street vendors and in consonance with this duty has been imposed on the town vending committee constituted by the state governments to ensure that proper regulation and implementation of the act is done within the state.

It can be stated that street sellers make up a sizable portion of India's informal economy and required protection from the police and government to conduct their business unhindered. The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act was passed with the goal of protecting the rights of street vendors, and it has done exactly that by granting them locations to do their business.

On the other hand, it also places a number of restrictions on the vendors, including mandatory registration, the authority to move the vendors, penalties for non-compliance, etc., and at times vendors are unable to pay the penalties and have to ensure hardship in the hands of local authorities by seizure of their goods.

In the Bombay Hawkers Union case, the Supreme Court of India recognized the vendors' fundamental rights long before the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act was put into effect. Despite this recognition by the courts and the Parliament, the vendors still endure hardships. When it comes to ground level implementation of the act, we see that the act still has not been enforced properly.

Street vendors are often subjected to threat and extortion and are forcefully evicted from their area of business. According to an interview with several street vendors in New Delhi that was published online by the wire, police officers frequently solicited bribes from street vendors in exchange for vending.

These administrative actions have demonstrated the act's declining utility in the modern era. They are required to make periodic payments to the police in numerous places around the nation in order to shield themselves from exploitation. Most vendors are low-income and uneducated, and because they are unaware of such programmes, they are unable to take advantage of the government's benefits.

Though a grievance redressal mechanism has been established under Section 20 of the act, the street vendors are exploited, and their demand are not fulfilled. They are subjected to eviction as a result of which there only source of income gets destroyed.

Even the Town Vending Committee established by the Act is hard to find throughout the state, and the Act is not being implemented by the state. To ensure that the rights granted to street sellers under the Act are utilized, the Central Government should take strict action against the State Governments and oversee the correct execution of the Act.

The reality of numerous arbitrary evictions around the nation is a reflection of the government's failure to effectively enforce the act. The act must be put into practice by the government in order to safeguard vendors' rights as stated in Article 19 of the Constitution.

  1. Section 2(1)(1), Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014
  2. Bombay Hawkers Union V. Bombay Municipal Corporation (1985)3 SCC 528
  3. Gainda Ram V. Municipal Corporation of Delhi (2010) 10 SCC 715
  4. Maharashtra Ekta Hawkers Union and another V. Municipal Corporation, Greater Mumbai [JT 2003(10) SC 1]
  5. Section 12(1), Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014
  6. Section 13, Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014
  7. Section 14, Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014
  8. Section 15 & 16, Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014
  9. Section 17, Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014
  10. Section 22, Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014
  11. Section 5(1), Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014
  12. Section 5(2), Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014

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