Empowering street vendors with rights awareness
There’s an invisible workforce we interact with everyday, whether buying vegetables from them on the roads, bargaining for clothes and household necessities, or even getting our shoes shined by them.
Street vendors work round-the-clock, making our daily lives more comfortable and convenient, and offering us goods and services at the lowest possible price, but their life and working conditions are far from secure.
As part of YUVA’s work with street vendors in Maharashtra, a state-level training workshop was organised with the National Hawkers Federation at Yuva Centre, Kharghar, in Navi Mumbai recently. The aim of this workshop was to help street vendors better understand and learn about their rights by acquainting them with the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 — relevant rules and status of implementation of the Act. Not just in Maharashtra, even in other parts of the country street vendors are still unaware of their rights; a large proportion have not even heard of the Street Vendors Act, 2014 — calling into question its very purpose if it cannot serve the interests of those it is meant to safeguard.
50 street vendors from 19 districts of Maharashtra attended this workshop. There are 27 municipal corporations in Maharashtra. However, Town Vending Committees (TVCs) as mandated by the Act have been formed in only three municipal corporations so far. TVCs help ensure that rights of all street vendors in a zone are protected with the necessary services to support their activity.
Shaktiman Ghosh, the General Secretary of the National Hawkers Federation of India, addressed the participants. He spoke about the trajectory of the street vendors struggle to claim their rights as workers in India.
A sample survey conducted by YUVA among 100 street vendors in Navi Mumbai in September 2017 was presented. The findings were shared with the aim to provide a background to working conditions, unionisation, awareness of the Street Vendors Act 2014 in one municipal corporation in Maharashtra. Some of the main study findings are summarised in the infographic below.
Most vendors migrate from their villages, driven by poor employment prospects. However, life in the city does not afford much relief. Street vendors are also often unaware about their rights, and helpless in the face of evictions.
Lawyer Sandip Bhag engaged with the street vendors to sensitise them about their rights as per the Act. The Act mandates that street vendors should be provided a ‘safe and harassment free’ work space and prohibits eviction without alternate vending space. However, this is not done and street vendors mostly don’t return to claim their goods, fearing a backlash from authorities.
The outcome of this training workshop is to imagine a plan of action and strategies for the betterment of street vendors. Meanwhile, the participants of the workshop would be taking up these issues for discussion in their individual districts.
Apurva Olwe (Research and Documentation Associate)