‘Documents will prevent cops from harassing us’, say street vendors who form a major part of the unorganised sector
Vending certificates, which aim to regulate street vending, have not been issued by BBMP as the authority responsible for issuing the certificates, Town Vending Committee (TVC), has not been formed yet.
Divya, who sells fruits around KR Market, informed The Observer: “We did not have any legal certificate. I don’t have enough money to own a shop. My cart is my only means of survival. This makes us vulnerable to harassment by authorities. The police ask for a bribe of Rs10 or Rs 20. If we don’t pay it, they take away my weighing stone. Then we have to pay Rs 500 to get it back. So we would rather pay the bribe in the first instance than lose business and pay and extra bribe.”
Veeran, a vegetable vendor in Chickpet, shared: “I have been selling vegetables in this cart for the past 10 years. I don’t have any certificate or ID card from any authority.” Asked if authorities have approached him to issue certificates, he said nobody has met him for registration or any survey.
Paramasivan, a street vendor outside the Chickpet Metro station, said: “It would be helpful if the authority issues certificates or identification cards to vendors like us. We don’t have a trade union or an association to fight for our rights. So these certificates would give validity to our business. They will also prevent harassment by the police.”
The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation) Act, 2014, says no street vendor should be evicted. It talks in detail about three types of certificates for vendors: stationary vendors, mobile vendors and other types of vendors. The Town Vending Committee is the authority to issue certificates to vendors above 14 years of age.
The Act acknowledges the rights and duties of street vendors. It has provisions to prevent harassment by authorities.
A senior official from BBMP’s social welfare department said: “We have already issued 11,000 certificates, and 24,000 vendors have been identified. We have got a directive from the skill development department, the nodal agency, to not issue cards till TVC is formed. Election preparations for TVC members are under way. The Joint Commissioners of zones are the officers responsible for the election process.”
Asked when TVC elections are expected, he said the date has not been finalised but preparations for the elections are under way. “Vendors are supposed to give a written undertaking that they will follow all rules, including the plastic ban. Some vendors are scared that if they give such an undertaking, it would affect them as they use plastic covers despite the ban.”
Sreenivasa Rao, a volunteer of Citizens for Bengaluru (CfB), said: “Street vendors are an essential part of our economy. They are involved in selling all sorts of goods. I feel the government should regulate their activity to prevent public nuisance or disturbance to general public. It should, at the same time, allow them to earn their livelihood. Though they are not in the tax net, if we count the volume of business it must be in hundreds of crores. This is another aspect requiring government attention.”
The government should stop extortion by authorities.
Newsclick, in July 2019, reported that street vendors in Vijayanagar were evicted despite the Karnataka High Court order exempting them from the definition of encroachers. Recently, Newsclick reported on November 15 that “hundreds of street vendors from different markets of Delhi marched to Jantar Mantar from Mandi House, demanding a immediate survey of street vendors and implementation of Street Vendors Act, 2014.”
Street vendors, who are a common sight in any area in Bengaluru, are part of the unorganised sector. The National Association of Street Vendors of India website says: “For most street vendors, trading from the pavements is full of uncertainties. They are constantly harassed by the authorities. The local bodies conduct eviction drives to clear the pavements of these encroachers and, in most cases, confiscate their goods. A municipal raid is like a cat-and- mouse game with municipal workers chasing street vendors away while these people try to run away and hide from these marauders.”