Delhi plans new law for street vendors

A vendor sells trinkets at a market in the Capital
Delhi has begun working on a new law to regulate the functioning of lakhs of vendors, who set up shop in every nook and corner of the Capital.

A special committee was created on Friday, with Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta as its head, to prepare a draft legislation that would set the norms for giving a semblance of order to this unorganised and often-criticised industry. "Work is underway. An initial draft of the legislation could come up for discussion as early as next month," Mehta told Newsline. The committee will analyse a Central Bill on street vendors' rights, which was drafted two years ago and then circulated to all the states, Mehta said. Back then, the states were asked to draft their own laws based on that model.

"That Bill has several provisions that are not relevant to Delhi. Once the draft is prepared, it will be circulated among all committee members for discussion," Mehta said.

Representatives of almost all key agencies, including the Municipal Corporation of Delhi commissioner, New Delhi Municipal Council chairperson, Delhi Development Authority vice-chairperson,

State Urban Development secretary and Madhu Kishwar of advocacy group Manushi, are members of the committee.

According to an internal order notifying the task force that was issued by the Delhi government on Friday, the committee will submit its report within one month. The order states that the task force is being created to bring out a new law on the issue of street vendors in Delhi, based on the Model Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill-2009, issued by the Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Ministry.

Thousands of street vendors set up shop using articles such as tables and tarpaulin sheets along Delhi's roads everyday, selling articles ranging from shirt buttons and shoes to vegetables and toys to the public. Though Delhi has never conducted an official census of its street vendors, estimates peg their number at four-five lakhs, Kishwar said.

"However, thanks to a regressive municipal policy, not more than 3,000 of these vendors have licences. All the others are technically illegal," said Kishwar, whose group is fighting for the rights of vendors evicted from Nehru Place in the Supreme Court. Delhi doesn't have a centralised licensing system for street vendors. Various civic agencies issue temporary licences, called teh bazari, to vendors, he added.

Nobody wants to authorise street vendors as they are an easy source of bribes for enforcement officers, Kishwar said, adding, "That's why we need a law for street vendors. It will give them as well as advocacy groups such as mine a strong handle to push for equitable rights."

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