Lucknow: In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant disruptions to the lives of street vendors, the Modi government had launched PM Street Vendor’s AtmaNirbhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi) scheme on June 1 to aid the vendors. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that his Government acknowledged the honesty and hard work of street vendors by offering them loans that were inaccessible to them in the past.
Addressing beneficiaries of the PM SVANidhi Scheme in Uttar Pradesh via video conferencing, Modi said: “Those doing politics in the name of poor had created an atmosphere that if a loan is given to them it would not be returned.”
In a statement, the Prime Minister’s office said that it has so far received over more than six lakh applications from Uttar Pradesh, out of which about 3.27 lakh have been sanctioned. Close to 1.87 lakh loans have been disbursed, the PMO said. Overall, the government said that over 24 lakh applications had been filed out of which more than 12 lakh have been sanctioned and about 5.35 lakh loans have been disbursed.
The scheme, launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in June, gives a micro-credit facility to provide an affordable loan of up to Rs 10,000 to more than 50 lakh street vendors, who had their businesses operational on or before March 24. The scheme is valid till March 2022.
According to Jaya Singh, Project Director at the District Urban Development Agency (DUDA) in Varanasi, the city was the first to send money to the accounts of the street vendors under PM SVANidhi scheme. Data from the PM SVANidhi Yojana portal said that Lucknow disbursed 84.82% of the loans while Varanasi had 90.31% till October 27.
However, NewsClick found scores of street vendors from PM Modi's constituency of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's bastion of Gorakhpur, and even the state capital of Lucknow, who did not have access to or were not beneficiaries of the scheme.
Speaking to NewsClick, Ashok Kumar Gupta, a street vendor at Sapru Marg in Lucknow and the president of the street vendors association in the city, said: “Though PM Modi claimed that his government had disbursed loans to nearly 85% of the applicants there were no grounds to support his claim. For example, there are 26 street vendors at Sapru Marg out of which only three people have received the amount so far. Either DUDA officials are not providing actual data or the PM is unaware of the ground reality,” said Ashok.
Listing out the problems faced by the street vendors to avail a loan, he said that in some instances, “the money was deposited to a bank where the street vendors did not have an account. When vendors approach bank officials they are asked to open a current account from the next month for which they will have to pay Rs 10,000. What is the use of paying Rs 10,000 to get a loan for the same amount?”
Devendra Kumar Kashyap, another street vendor in Lucknow said that he got a call from municipal corporation which said that his loan amount had been credited to his account. When he went to his bank, he was shocked. “The money came in my name but to Punjab National Bank, while my account is with Bank of Baroda. Despite running from pillar to post for the past two months, I have always returned empty handed. How can I withdraw money from a bank that does not have my account,” asked an exasperated Kashyap.
Echoing similar sentiments, Abhishek Nigam, another street vendor from Varanasi, said that those who had registered with the municipal corporation had been given an identity card so that it could make the process smoother. However, “around 75% of the street vendors are not registered with the municipal corporation. How will they avail this facility?” asked Rahman, pointing out that the money is being disbursed to some who have never availed of a loan.
Gokul Prasad had a similar complaint. He is skeptical of the government data too. “The bank does not want to give us money because they feel that we will not be able to return the money. Aside from this the DUDA has proven to be a complete failure as it did not do its work honestly. They did not organise a camp to collect the data of actual street vendors, only wrote down names of those who went to them. Vendors who are constantly on the move and those outside people’s houses were deprived,” he added.
NewsClick also spoke to vendors from Basti, Prayagraj, Gorakhpur, Meerut and Barabanki, all of whom said that they had not received the loan amount either.