New Delhi, India – An estimated 10 million vendors sell goods and services on the streets of India.
A Street Vendors Act aimed at regulating these vendors and to protect their rights has been passed by parliament, but the New Delhi High Court says the local government has failed to implement the law.
The court ordered it to present a clear policy on Tuesday to regulate the number of vendors and help others find new jobs.
“The sooner the street vendors get licenses, they can freely carry on their trade without harassment from the policemen or authorities. This process will regularise the street vendors, besides eliminating the middlemen and brokers who exploit the vendors,” says Anurag Shankar from the National Association of Street Vendors of India.
But vendors say they have little hope for the act’s implementation. Most come from rural areas where declining agriculture production forced them to move to the Indian capital to earn their livelihoods.
Their lives are insecure as they are routinely harassed for weekly bribes called “hafta” in Indian parlance.
“It’s always painful to pay a weekly bribe out of my hard-earned money. We are made to act like criminals as we have to grease their palm to seek protection and carry on trade without harassment,” said Rajesh Kumar, 53, selling mobile phone accessories.
Another vendor selling clothes said he regularly pays bribes to police and local authorities. “For so many years I have been hearing about this act, but frankly speaking nothing seems to move on,” said Vinod Kumar, 69.
“With the license, at least my hard-earned money will go to the government treasury. I have reasons to believe that the ring of brokers will never let this happen because they have strong contacts.”
Prabhu Shah, 35, who sells candy from a bicycle, was also sceptical.
“I have been carrying on the trade for the past 10 years and I am always on the move to avoid getting caught… The well-off people will get the licenses – and then they will sell it to us to earn big money,” said Shah.