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Livelihood

The Indian Parliament enacted the Street Vendor (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act in 2014, to prevent harassment of street vendors and to regulate their livelihood. Given the important role played by local authorities in regulating street vending, the Act delegates rule-making powers to the State Government. It specifies the respective authorities for making rules, schemes and bye-laws, neatly delineates the rule-making heads/matters for each of these and specifies the timeline for enacting them. While State Governments are tasked with framing rules and formulating schemes, municipal authorities have to enact bye-laws.

Apart from shaping local governance, the content of State schemes and rules have a bearing on the vendors’ right to occupation and the duties imposed on them. While the parent Act sets the contours for regulation, States vary in the way they adopt, interpret or elaborate on the different aspects of street vending.

We have prepared two matrices that feature cross-tabulation of all state rules and schemes under the Street Vendors Act, 2014. These matrices are user-friendly tools that facilitate a comparison between States based on the different ways in which they approach the same rule-headings, under the parent Act.

Rules

Section 36 (2) of the Central Act directs the states to notify rules within one year from the date of commencement of the Act. Sub-sections 2(a) to 2(r) outline the matters that the rules may address. These include the dispute redressal mechanism, the constitution and functioning of the Town Vending Committee (TVC), record maintenance, social audit and the returns to be furnished.

The matrix on State rules clubs these 19 rulemaking heads under 5 categories. These 5 categories are further classified into smaller specifications to provide clause level summaries of the different State provisions. Some columns are empty. Since the parent Act does not mandate the rules to deal with all matters, some states have not introduced any provisions for specific matters.

Schemes

Per section 38, states should draft and notify the scheme within 6 months from the commencement of the Act, in consultation with the TVC and the local authorities. The second schedule of the Act elaborates on the matters that the scheme may address. This includes laying down the process for conducting the survey, issuing identity cards and certificate of vending, the guidelines for earmarking vending zones, vending regulations for different categories of vendors, provisions regarding vending fee and the relocation and the eviction of vendors.

The matrix on State schemes clubs these 29 rulemaking heads under 13 categories. These are further classified into smaller specifications to provide clause level summaries of different scheme provisions.

Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai [commonly known as Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)], responsible for regulating street vending in Bombay, has been grappling with the ‘street vendor nuisance, encroachment and other illegalities’ since at least the 1880s. According to the Government of India, there are around 2,50,000 vendors in Bombay. Their rights are protected under the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act 2014. This Act empowers a participatory committee called Town Vending Committee to regulate street vending, conduct a survey of all street vendors and formalise them.

There are four major challenges in the way the Government of Maharashtra has implemented this Act.

Enumerating Street Vendors in Mumbai
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First, Rule 22 of the Maharashtra Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) (Maharashtra) Rules, 2016 empowers the Municipal Commissioners and the State Government to veto TVC proposals. This veto power dilutes participatory governance and may be misused to make the TVC dysfunctional. This veto power is against the Street Vendors Act, 2014 as the Act expressly supersedes all other local laws. Deciding whether a proposal by the TVC violates another law is a judicial function and vesting the power of judicial review in an executive body is also a violation of the doctrine of separation of powers.

Second, six years have passed since the enactment of the Street Vendors Act, 2014 but the Government of Maharashtra has still not formulated a statutory scheme as per the mandate of the Act. Although the Government formulated a scheme in 2017, Azad Hawkers Union challenged it on the grounds that the scheme was not framed in due consultation with the local authority and TVC. Bombay High Court ruled that the scheme is not legitimate as it did not comply with the consultation mandate.

Third, the 2014-Vendor survey did not comply with any statutory requirement - either with the Street Vendors Act, 2014 or with 2009-Policy. In Azad Hawkers Union 2017, street vendors argued that a survey is not possible in the absence of TVCs with duly elected members and that without the survey, street vendor elections cannot be conducted. Bombay High Court called it a chicken- egg question and addressed this legal conundrum by ruling that the first elections to the TVC may be based on the surveys conducted under the 2009 Policy. The 2009 Policy prescribes a census like survey and hiring of a professional agency for conducting the survey. But the 2014-registration drive was based on application submission and not census-like survey. BMC merely distributed forms and asked the vendors to submit the filled form later, along with other documents. Also, BMC did not hire any professional agency to undertake a survey.

Fourth, even though the Street Vendors Act, 2014 does not prescribe requirements like domicile certificate for the purpose of registration and licensing, the Government of Maharashtra has added a domicile certificate to the list of required documents. This requirement has brought down the number of eligible street vendors from 23,265 to 5,000 only.

Another exclusionary policy is the ban on roadside cooking. Previously the Municipal Commissioner had advocated for a ban on the vending of any cooked food articles. But the Supreme Court in Bombay Hawkers Union case found such a condition to be an unreasonable restriction. This issue has been repeatedly discussed both in the Supreme Court and the Bombay High Court. With the enactment of the Street Vendors Act, 2014, no such restrictions were placed on roadside cooking or the sale of cooked food. Yet, on 23 October 2015, Bombay High Court refused to accord protection to those vendors who cook food at the place of street vending. The judiciary is therefore reading a prohibition in the law that the Parliament has not legislated.

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The Street Vendors Act 2014 mandates the formation of town vending committees (TVC) to survey all local street vendors at least once every five years. Until a survey is complete, no street vendor is to be evicted. In this attached study, we document how street vendors were enumerated in Gurugram, Haryana.

Multiple surveys, varying methods

In the span of seven years, six private agencies have been contracted by different government departments at the municipal and state level. These agencies carried out surveys using varying methods and each reported different number and category of vendors (Figure 1). Despite multiple attempts, it is not clear if and how the agencies adhered to the Central Act and state guidelines. There also seems to be a lack of thorough and careful evaluation, by the local authority, of the work carried out by the private agencies.

Timeline of surveys in Gurugram
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Figure 1: Timeline of surveys in Gurugram

Contracted agencies used different survey practices

To understand the enumeration mechanisms adopted by different agencies, we interviewed two agencies, Egmac Capital and REPL. The former was contracted under the local authority and surveyed sector 10A and 56, the latter was contracted by the state government and surveyed the whole of Gurugram.

While Egmac Capital carried out a survey using physical forms, REPL used an app called the REPL Survey. The application allowed the agency to geotag the individual vending spot of all vendors. Figure 2 lists the differences in practices followed by the two agencies.

Comparative analysis of survey practices adopted by two agencies
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Figure 2: Comparative analysis of survey practices adopted by two agencies

Critical gaps in vendor enumeration practices in Gurugram

Surveys are not all-inclusive: Barely a third of the vendors we interviewed (11 out of 30) were surveyed under any of the survey exercises. Even in designated vending zones, vendors remain uncounted. None of these vendors could confidently declare who their surveyor was.

Local authority reigns supreme: The Act is clear on two aspects: first, the final decision on vending zones will be made by the local authority in consultation with the TVCs, and two, the scheme has to provide for the conditions and principles of demarcating vending and no-vending zones. Haryana fails on both aspects: the local authority decides and then declares its decision to the TVC, and there is no notified scheme.

Misaligned Incentives: The TVC meeting minutes, from 25 January 2017, highlight that one of the agencies underreported the number of vendors to evade paying the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) its share in the fees collected from vendors. In another instance, the state government paid REPL on a per vendor basis. While the first instance creates incentives for the agency to underreport, a per-vendor payment system may create perverse incentives to overreport the number of vendors.

Survey complete without a scheme. What next?

There remain many implementation gaps. Haryana, for example, has not drafted the scheme, as required under the Street Vendors Act 2014. The state government and the MCG carried our surveys, through private agencies, in the absence of a scheme. Further, the scope and results of the agencies differed significantly making comparisons or creation of a unified dataset of vendors difficult.

The survey reports of all the agencies are stuck with the local authority and TVC. Complaints to the MCG by the vendors and the private agencies go unheard. Currently, the only avenue to express concerns, the TVC, has not conducted any meeting since 21 August 2018.

Gurugram’s model of contracting out vendor enumeration to private agencies may be desirable given constraints on state capacity. However, without clear objectives and rigorous evaluation of work, we are left with less than perfect outcomes.

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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.

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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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