People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 32

August 07, 2011




Street Vendors Stage Dharna

for Right to Life


IN order to register protest against an impending bill that threatens to throw crores of street vendors into unfathomable miseries, Delhi Pradesh Rehri Patri Khomcha Hawkers Union, affiliated to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, organised a dharna at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, from 10 a m to 3.30 p m on August 3. The UPA central government’s intention is to get the proposed bill passed and enacted into a law in the ongoing monsoon session of parliament.


After the passage of the proposed bill, the government would be inviting and allowing the foreign MNCs dealing in multi-brand wholesale and retail trade, like WalMart, TESCO, Metro AG, etc, to make huge investments and set up their retail outlets in India on the pattern of the already established chain-stores in over 80 countries the world over. Their annual turnover has already crossed the Rs 50 lakh crore mark.


True there are a few pliers of Rehri Patri Khomchas in Delhi whom the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) or the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) have allotted the tehbazari or hawker licences, and a few similar vendors in other metros and important big cities having more than 10 lakh population. But leaving this small section apart, after the passage of the proposed bill, crores of vendors would be labelled as unauthorised encroachers, removed from pavements, roads, streets and bazaars, and thus rendered jobless throughout the country.


Besides, in case the proposed draft bill is passed, the business of the small and medium-sized shopkeepers would also get adversely affected. As a result, lakhs of their employees would become surplus and hence removed from service, adding to the huge existing army of unemployed in the country. Miseries and hardships would severely strike the aforesaid sections of society in these days of soaring inflation.


It is with such a scenario looming in the background that Delhi Pradesh Rehri Patri Khomcha Hawkers Union has been consistently and constantly conducting militant struggles, courting arrest, holding protest marches, dharnas and demonstrations at various police stations, MCD zones, police headquarters and MCD headquarters, and also in front of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Poverty Alleviation. The union has since 1999 constantly protested against the highhandedness, excesses and atrocities perpetrated on the vendors in the capital by the nexus of concerned unscrupulous and corrupt officials of the MCD and the police.


It was the mounting pressure of this union and some other unions in Delhi and other metro cities for a resolution of the genuine and intricate problems of the vendors, lingering on for decades together, which compelled in the year 2004 the union government to frame and formulate a comprehensive draft policy for the welfare and rehabilitation of the urban street vendors; the policy was further amended and progressively reformed in the year 2009. A salient feature of this draft policy was the assurance given about sure issuance of the tehbazari or hawker licenses to all those unemployed who are engaged in petty trading, selling their wares or articles from pavements etc. It was said that the number of such licenses would be to the extent of two and a half per cent of the population of a particular metro city or important big city. This was certainly a right step and would have greatly helped all those unemployed who migrate from rural areas to cities in search of a livelihood. In case of non-availability of a service, they could hope to obtain a license from the municipal committee or municipal corporation to engage themselves in the said kind of jobs.


In several of its verdicts given during the last two decades and as late as October 2010, the Supreme Court of India has repeatedly emphasised that the “hawkers and squatters have a fundamental right as per the Article 19 (1) (g) of our Constitution to carry out business at public street but the same should be regulated.” The apex court further ruled that before June 30, 2011 the appropriate government should enact a law so that the hawkers knew the contours of their right.


However, it is shocking and surprising to know that the government has blatantly ignored the above mentioned ruling of the Supreme Court, which is tantamount to contempt of the court. Instead, the government has opted to bring in an anti-human bill, and press for its passage into a law, so that it may invite the multinational multi-brand retail tycoons to devour and wipe out the street vendors and the small shopkeepers.


Regrettably, it is clear that the authorities concerned have given a good bye, dropped and dumped the draft policy that was framed in 2004. While this comprehensive draft policy was to aid the social, economic and vocational uplift and security for the vendors, now its removal and reversal is the result of a deep-rooted conspiracy hatched by the vested interests, i.e. the Indian and foreign multi-brand retail trade corporate houses, bureaucrats and politicians. Preparations are now going on at full swing to get the proposed bill passed in this very monsoon session of parliament.


It is obvious that rehearsal has now begun to provide a wide playing ground to the multi-brand retail trade tycoons. The unholy nexus of the police and municipal authorities concerned are now labelling the large numbers of vendors in Delhi and New Delhi as unauthorised encroachers, abuse them, beat them up and drive them away systematically in small groups. Their rehries are being lifted and deposited in the municipal store houses. They are being heavily fined to the tune of Rs 1375 to Rs 2000, and also forced to sign an undertaking that they would not squat on the roadside any more after the return of their rehries and articles. The site or space thus vacated is being provided to car owners for car parking in lieu of lucrative premiums and fees.


In these circumstances, the Delhi Pradesh Rehri Patri Khomcha Hawkers Union has demanded that the proposed draft bill must be withdrawn forthwith. It has also demanded that appropriate licenses must be given to all the unemployed vendors who are already engaged in petty trading on the pavements and in the streets, as this is their only source of income. They are daily bread-earners and naturally have no bank balance. The dharna organised by the union also pressed the demand that the atrocities and excesses being inflicted by the combine of the police and MCD officials must be put an end to --- and for ever. Yet another demand the union is pressing is that no penalty must be imposed on the downtrodden street vendors.