Who is a ‘street vendor’ in India, and what is the Street Vendors Act?

Street Vendors Act

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Street Vendors Act
Street Vendors Act

In News:

  • The Prime Minister recently distributed loans to nearly 300,000 street vendors under the Pradhan Mantri Street Vendors’ Atmanirbhar Nidhi Yojana (SVANidhi), that was launched in June 2020.

About: PM SVANidhi scheme

  • The PM SVANidhi scheme is a micro-credit scheme, funded by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
  • It aims to provide loans for working capital to around 50 lakh street vendors who have been affected due to the Covid-19 crisis.
  • Vendors can take working capital loan of up to Rs 10,000, that is repayable in monthly instalments within one year.
  • A timely repayment will also ensure that the vendor gets a credit score and is eligible for a higher loan.
  • The scheme also incentivises digital transactions by the street vendors through monthly cash back.
  • All street vendors who have been in business on or before March 24, 2020, are eligible under the scheme.

About: Street vendors in India

  • Any person selling goods or services, who does not have a permanent shop is considered a street vendor.
  • There are an estimated 50-60 lakh street vendors in India, with the largest concentrations in the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Ahmedabad.
  • Most of the street vendors across the country are migrants.
Significance of street vendors:
  • Street vendors, are essential service providers, as they provide cheap goods to the urban poor, who cannot afford to shop from malls or supermarkets for their necessities.
  • Even the middle classes benefit from their provision of essential goods at low cost and convenient locations.
  • They also act as a cheap distribution network for small and micro-enterprises in the informal sector that make toys, clothes, utensils, and other household goods.These small industries cannot afford to sell their goods via conventional retail outlets.
  • Further, they contribute to significant employment generation in the economy. According to government estimates, street-vending accounts for 14% of the total (non-agricultural) urban informal employment in the country.
Problems faced by street vendors:
  • Even though the sector contributes significantly to the overall economy, it still faces many issues.
  • Licence caps are unrealistic in most cities— Mumbai for example, has an upper limit of around 15,000 licences against an estimated 2.5 lakh vendors.
  • This means most vendors have to sell their goods illegally, which makes them vulnerable to exploitation and extortion by local police and municipal authorities.
  • Often, local bodies conduct eviction drives (to remove the street vendors) to clear the pavements of encroachers, and confiscate (seize) their goods, and fines for recovery are very high.
Street Vendor groups and associations:
  • Over the years, street vendors have organised themselves into trade unions and associations, and numerous NGOs have started working for them.
  • The National Hawker Federation (NHF) is a federation of 1,400 street vendor organisations and trade unions that has a presence in 28 states.
  • The National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI), played a significant role in the process of enacting the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014.
  • NASVI is also working to provide hygiene and social distancing training to cooked food vendors during the pandemic.

About: The Street Vendors Act

  • The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 was enacted to regulate street vendors in public areas and protect the livelihood rights of street vendors.
  • The Act defines a “street vendor” as a person selling articles of everyday use or offering services to the general public, in any public place or private area, from a temporary structure or by moving from place to place.
  • As per the Act, vending and non-vending zones will be demarcated and all street vendors will be accommodated in the vending zones.
  • The Act provides for a survey of all existing hawkers and certificates of vending are to be issued to all existing hawkers identified in the survey.
  • Further, no hawker will be removed from his/her spot unless and until the survey has been done and certificates of vending issued.
  • As per the Act, the state governments have to frame a scheme for street vendors. Further, the local authority has to frame a street vending plan once every five years.
Town Vending Committees:
  • The Act provides for the formation of Town Vending Committees (TVC) in various districts.
  • The TVC comprises of the municipal commissioner, representatives of street vendors, local authority, planning authority, local police, resident welfare association and other trade associations. 
  • Since the street vendors are the biggest stakeholders, the law mandates that members representing them should be not less than 40 per cent of the TVC.
  • The Town Vending Committee is headed by the municipal commissioner.
  • The TVC has to organise the survey, decide on vending/non-vending zones, issue vending certificates, decide on vending fees that the hawkers should pay the municipality, publish the street vendor’s charter etc.
Harassment prevention:
  • In order to prevent the harassment of street vendors, the Act states that no street vendor shall be harassed under any other law in force.
  • Moreover, the Street Vendors Act will override any other law related to street vendors.

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