ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Street Vendors: Denied Credit

Hawkers and roadside traders are not just the most visible segments of the informal sector that is thriving in India’s cities, they also contribute immensely to the definition of every city’s character. Two recent rulings of the Supreme Court (SC) regarding street vendors in Delhi and Mumbai put the spotlight on a section of the population that is said to number a little over a crore in the country.

In mid-May, the SC approved a scheme by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), part of a drive to “beautify” the capital, that envisaged the identification of squatting/vending areas by the ward vending committees. The court did not accept the request of the counsel for the hawkers (Delhi has approximately three lakh hawkers) that an independent expert body and not the MCD should identify the hawking and non-hawking zones and that preference should be given to women vendors or daily markets be set up only for women. In the judgment (early May) concerning Mumbai, the SC ruled that only 23,950 pitches (one licence can be given per pitch) in the city can be made available for hawking and 15,000 licensed hawkers be allowed to conduct business till the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) starts the process of allotting spots to hawkers. This means that only a little over 5 per cent of the nearly four lakh hawkers in Mumbai will be allowed on the city’s streets. At least 20 per cent of Mumbai’s hawkers are estimated to be from the city’s factories and mills that have downed shutters.

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