The Street Vendors Bill is in Parliament and the government has promised to see to it that the bill passes in the current session.
And several municipal bodies, including the BMC, are opposed to it. The bill (protection of livelihood and regulation of street vending) aims to give hawkers legal protection from authorities/police who keep hounding them.
Anand Wagralkar, deputy municipal commissioner of the BMC responsible for handling the matter, was unavailable for comment. But BMC officials confirmed they had opposed it. “We have not written to the Centre opposing it, but we have conveyed it orally during meetings,” an official said.
Mumbai mayor Sunil Prabhu said if the bill is okayed, footpaths will vanish from the city and pedestrians will suffer. “We will oppose it,” he said. But Prabhu, a Shiv Sena member, did not forget to demand that licences should be given first to the sons of the soil.
The parliamentary standing committee submitted its report on the bill in the Lok Sabha last week. The committee has stressed on minimal documents for registration as most applicants/street vendors would find too much paperwork cumbersome because most would be “illiterate”.
Also, instead of leaving it to the local authorities, the bill should have specific provisions on identification, registration, licencing of street vendors, and allocating them space once natural markets are identified.
Expectedly, hawkers are happy. Daya Shankar Singh, president of the Azad Hawkers Union in Mumbai, said: “It is good that the Centre is fast-tracking the process of passing the bill. We have given a number of suggestions such as doing away with the domicile status when it comes to issuing licences and demarcating hawker zones.”
But residents are not amused. Most say they are going to fight tooth and nail against such a law. Anil Joseph, president of Perry Road Resident Association in Mumbai, said: “Politicians at the Centre are completely clueless about the ground reality here... They should stick to Delhi. If the bill is passed, we will have more hawkers and they will all be legalised. It is completely anti-people. They should think about the people first and not about the vote-banks of their local politicians.”
The bill, as it is now, aims to provide hawkers with legal protection because they are forced to hawk goods for want of regular jobs. The reason being mostly low levels of literacy.
The government hopes that the legislation will have a great impact on employment in urban areas and save hawkers from being harassed by the police or civic authorities.
The bill has, however, excluded the railway properties from its purview because the railways have a well-established policy of granting licences to hawkers on platforms and trains under the Railway Act.
The parliamentary standing committee has sought to extend the protection under the bill to hawkers who provide essential services near bus stands, taxi stands, metro stations and inside public or private buses and on trains.
The bill must make it mandatory that hawkers “personally” run stalls or hawk goods and they cannot rent or lease or sell it to any other person, the committee has said in its report.
Among other recommendations are a 30-day notice period for evicting or relocating a hawker. Also, a “panchnama” will have to done of the goods confiscated and they will have to be released within 15 days. The penalty cannot exceed the value of the confiscated goods with the upper limit being capped at Rs2,000, the committee has said.