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Street Vendor’s Act UPSC NOTE

 Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act

  • A decade has passed since the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act came into effect on May 1, 2014

  • Celebrated as a progressive legislation, the Act now faces numerous challenges in its implementation. 

  • Looking back, the mere enactment of a law did not ensure the protection and security of street vendors in Indian cities; there was much to be desired in its execution.

Street vendors: Policy support to aid the recovery of the heart of India's  retail market

Provisions of the law

  • Street vendors, estimated to constitute 2.5% of any city’s population, play multifaceted roles in city life. 

  • Local vegetable sellers and food vendors are essential providers of daily services. 

  • Vending offers many migrants and the urban poor a source of modest yet consistent income. The vendors also make city life affordable for others by providing vital links in the food, nutrition, and goods distribution chain at reasonable prices.

  • Street vendors are also integral to Indian culture — imagine Mumbai without its vada pav or Chennai without its roadside dosai

Street food vendors to be trained in hygiene, social distancing | Latest  News Delhi - Hindustan Times
  • The law was enacted to acknowledge this reality. It aimed to ‘protect’ and ‘regulate’ street vending in cities, with State-level rules and schemes, and execution by Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) through by-laws, planning, and regulation. 

  • The Act clearly delineates the roles and responsibilities of both vendors and various levels of government. 

  • It recognises the positive urban role of vendors and the need for livelihood protection

  • It commits to accommodating all ‘existing’ vendors in vending zones and issuing vending certificates. 

  • The Act establishes a participatory governance structure through Town Vending Committees (TVCs) and mandates that street vendor representatives must constitute 40% of TVC members, with a sub-representation of 33% of women street vendors. 

  • These committees are tasked with ensuring the inclusion of all existing vendors in vending zones

  • Additionally, the Act outlines mechanisms for addressing grievances and disputes, proposing the establishment of a Grievance Redressal Committee chaired by a civil judge or judicial magistrate. 

  • Its provisions set a crucial precedent for inclusive and participatory approaches to address street vending needs in cities, at least in theory.

Challenges

  • First, at the administrative level, there has been a noticeable increase in harassment and evictions of street vendors, despite the Act’s emphasis on their protection and regulation. 

  • This is often due to an outdated bureaucratic mindset that views vendors as illegal entities to be cleared. 

  • There is also a pervasive lack of awareness and sensitisation about the Act among state authorities, the wider public, and vendors.

  • TVCs often remain under the control of local city authorities, with limited influence from street vendor representatives. And the representation of women vendors in TVCs is mostly tokenistic.

  • Second, at the governance level, existing urban governance mechanisms are often weak

  • The Act does not integrate well with the framework established by the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act for urban governance

  • ULBs lack sufficient powers and capacities. Schemes like the Smart Cities Mission, laden with resources and pushed through as policy priorities from the top-down, mostly focus on infrastructure development and ignore the

provisions of the Act for the inclusion of street vendors in city planning.

  • Third, at the societal level, the prevailing image of the ‘world class city tends to be exclusionary.

  • It marginalises and stigmatises street vendors as obstacles to urban development instead of acknowledging them as legitimate contributors to the urban economy. 

  • These challenges are reflected in city designs, urban policies, and public perceptions of neighbourhoods.

Steps taken 

  • While the Act is progressive and detailed, its implementation requires support, possibly (and ironically) necessitating top-down direction and management starting from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. 

  • This needs to be decentralised over time to ensure effectiveness in addressing the diverse needs and contexts of street vendors nationwide. 

  • PM SVANidhi, a micro-credit facility for street vendors, has been a positive example in that direction. 

  • There is a strong need to decentralise interventions, enhance the capacities of ULBs to

Small Business Relief: Helping Street Vendors | Morgan Stanley

to plan for street vending in cities, and move away from high-handed department-led actions to actual deliberative processes at the TVC level

  • Urban schemes, city planning guidelines, and policies need to be amended to include street vending.

  • The Act now faces new challenges such as the impact of climate change on vendors, a surge in the number of vendors, competition from e-commerce, and reduced incomes.

  •  The Act’s broad welfare provisions must be used creatively to meet the emerging needs of street vendors.

  • The sub-component on street vendors in the National Urban Livelihood Mission needs to take cognisance of the changed realities and facilitate innovative measures for addressing needs. 

  • The case of the Street Vendors Act highlights the complex interplay of contestation over space, workers in urban areas, and governance, offering valuable lessons for future lawmaking and implementation


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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Street Vendor’s Act UPSC NOTE
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