On July 15, 2018, street vendors in the IT hub of Whitefield in Bengaluru were illegally evicted, and it is not for the first time such evictions have taken place in the city. Bengaluru street vendors have always been under the threat of losing their livelihood. They have been demanding an identification card from the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), so that they can legally fight against such illegal actions of the municipality authorities in the elite neighbourhoods in the city. The Bengaluru Jilla Beedhi Vyapari Sanghatanegala Okkuta is a registered federation of street vendors’ trade unions across Bengaluru. The federation aims at ensuring livelihood security for the street vendors. With its demands (which have been presented in front of the authorities multiple times in the past) and a call for protest in the first week of August 2018, the federation had called for a press meet today, on July 17, 2018.
Street vending units constitute a significant share of the total enterprises in the urban informal sector. Despite this, street vendors face a lot of challenges and biases from local government representatives, and also in urban policies and regulations. Street vendors are not wanted by the elite, and the police and local authorities are usually on their side. Recognising these challenges faced by them, the press meet today focused on their demand of ID cards.
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Following various protests in the city by the street vendors demanding for ID, has forced the BBMP to undertake a survey of the vendors in the city. The survey conducted in September-October 2017 could cover only 25,000 street vendors, while according to the federation, there are actually over two lakh street vendors. The survey, however, has resulted only in counting, but not distribution of the ID cards or certificates of vending, for what the surveys were done in the first place. The street vendors in the city work under a severe threat of eviction and relocation. Even though it is against the eviction laws, relocations are routinely carried out.
In 2010, the Supreme Court recognised street vending as a source of livelihood and the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 was designed. The legislation regulates street vendors in public spaces and protects their rights. It clearly instructs the Town Vending Committee to conduct a survey of all the street vendors in the city and provide them with the Certificate of Vending and ID cards. According to the Act, this survey needs to be done once in every five years and it explicitly says, “Every street vendor shall have the right to carry on the business of street vending activities in accordance with the terms and conditions mentioned in the certificate of vending.”
For BBMP, the Act doesn’t seem to exist and has its own ways of functioning. Street vending is controlled by three of the departments of BBMP. These are: revenue department, estates department, which looks after the corporation’s property, and the health department; Street vendors remain to be uncared for and ignored by the BBMP. Though the law states in as many words that it is illegal, eviction is rampant and the vendors cannot avail any benefits from the state government.
This is because none of them possess any ID or Certificate of Vending. The activists and the representatives present in the press meet today gave an example of the ‘Samrudhi Yojana’ of the erstwhile Congress government that was meant for the welfare of the women street vendors. However, none of these women could avail benefits of the scheme. It is not that BBMP is clueless about all of this; it has allocated Rs 2 crore for the welfare of the street vendors, but is not utilising it as the beneficiaries cannot identify themselves.
The federation, in the press meet today, has sought an end to all of this under the guidance of the existing laws and regulations. They have the following demands and on not fulfilling them, it will be calling for a protest in the first week of August. The demands are:
- All street vendors who were covered under the survey in 2017 must be given ID cards and Certificate of Vending before August 2018.
- Phase-II of the survey must be announced through a circular by the BBMP.
- The BBMP has allocated Rs 2 crore for the welfare of street vendors in Bengaluru. The amount must be utilised at the earliest.
- Any move to relocate street vendors in the city must be in accordance with the the law and the same must be issued in the form of a circular so that all BBMP officials can abide by it.