‘Ima Markets Should Accommodate Evicted Vendors’

We are around 4000 street vendors. We are represented by Roadside Vendors Welfare Association, Khwairamband Keithel, Manipur Keithel Nupi Marup, Khwairamband Keithel, Manipur Keithel Phambi Apunba Lup, Khwairamband Keithel. Our organizations are members of National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI) which is a federation of more than 540 street vendors’ organizations in India. The Imphal Municipal Council made the survey of unlicensed vendors sitting on streets in the beginning of 2010. The survey has recorded 3,882 street vendors through photographs. We have not been given licensed by the municipal body though we have been vending for last more than 15 years.

We all were doing our business in Puranna Bazar, Lakshmi Market and New Market of Imphal city. A Memorandum of understanding (MoU) dated 19.04.2005, was signed between the street vendors, who include licensed and unlicensed street vendors, and the Government of Manipur. The MoU states that a permanent structure comprising basement, ground floor and the first floor will be built at the place of the markets. The MoU also promises that the ground floor of the built structure will be given to the licensed vendors. There was also an understanding that the first floor will be given to the unlicensed vendors (us) and the basement will be used for parking. During the time when the market structures were constructed we were working in the temporary vending sites and the roadside surrounding of the market structures. The construction of buildings/market structures (women markets) were completed last year. The markets were inaugurated on 12.11.2010 by the Chairperson of UPA and the National Advisory Council, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. The licensed vendors were allotted space on the ground floor of the women markets. We the unlicensed women vendors, were not allotted any place in the newly built market structures. In spite of the first floor of all three women markets lying vacant we were forced to vend on the roadside surroundings of the women markets.

On 26.04.2011 the police evicted us from the roadside also. It was due to a Cabinet decision taken by your goodself, the Chief Minister of Manipur. Since then we have been demanding and struggling for our right of livelihood. Instead of hearing our grievances the Government arrested our 25 sisters.

It is pertinent to note that the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty alleviation, Government of India has adopted a National Policy on Urban Street Vendors, 2009. As per this policy all Municipal bodies in India have to constitute a town vending committee which will comprise all stake holders like as representatives of Police, traffic police, NGOs like resident welfare associations, Municipal body and street vendors. It is contemplated that all regulation pertaining to street vending will be monitored and implemented by the Town vending committee. As per the policy 40 per cent of the members of the TVC will be representing street vendors. The policy emphasizes the need of recognizing the legal status of the street vendors and sets out the responsibility of the State Governments to enact legislation for promotion and regulation of street vendors. It is specifically mentioned in the policy that street vendors will only be evacuated as a last resort.

Proper notice and rehabilitation will be essential in case eviction is inevitable. The Policy also recognizes the concept of ‘natural market’ which means that the street vendors should be at a place where there is natural and traditional propensity of demand. As per the concept of natural market the street vendors cannot be shifted in the name of relocation, at a place where there is no demand or traditional propensity of assembling into market. Under the policy a Model Street Vendors (Promotional and Regulation) BiII-2009 has also been framed by GoI. The Prime Minister by his letter dated 04.08.2011 to all chief Ministers, has recommended the implementation of the National Policy on Urban Street Vendors, 2009 through enacting legislation on the basis of the Model Bill.

The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court of India in 1989 had held that the Citizen has fundamental right of street vending under article 19(1) g of the Constitution of India. The Court emphasized that this right needs to be regulated. In a recent Judgment, the Apex Court in Gainda Ram Vs MCD (dated 08.10.2010) has held that the fundamental rights of the street vendors cannot be regulated without law. Interpreting the Constitutional provision under article 19(6) the Supreme Court of India has held that the policy and scheme are not competent to regulate the fundamental rights of street vendors. All such schemes regulating street vendors must have force of law. Therefore, the Court has directed the State to enact legislation for the promotion and regulation of street vending before 30.06.2011.

Though the Government of Manipur has built separate vending zones for women street vendors which is praise-worthy but the action of the Manipur Government to evict us is completely arbitrary and unjustified on following grounds.

i) The action is neither on the basis of the National Policy nor on the basis of any scheme or policy framed by the State Government. The decision about the vending zones should have been taken through participatory approach (TVC) as contemplated in the National Policy. Any space allocation for our relocation should be based on the concept of ‘natural market’.

ii) The Government is taking the benefit of its own wrong. We the unlicensed street vendors should have been allocated the first floor of the women (Ima) markets which is lying vacant without any purpose. The vacant first floors in all three women markets are sufficient to accommodate all of us. Any other utility for the first floor was never contemplated neither any such motive has been announced by the Government. The Government is not allocating that place to us arbitrarily. We surrendered our place of vending (purana bazaars) only because of the promise of allocation of space to us in the MoU dated 19.04.2005.

iii) The regulation of the Street vendors as per the Supreme Court of India should be on the basis of law. Not to talk of law, the Government has not yet framed any scheme on the basis of which the street vendors in the State can be granted license and vending zones may be ascertained. The Government is only relying on Municipal laws which does not recognize the street vendors and which has no permanent mechanism to grant licenses.

We demand that the first floor of the women markets should be immediately allocated to us. The ground floor of the markets which is also lying vacant should be utilized as parking space. The open space of the temporary market should also be developed (fund for the same has already been allocated by Madam Sonia Gandhi) in a market structure for street vendors. It is shameful that despite the places being laying vacant our livelihood has been put at stake. The Government has also committed a breach of trust by not allocating us the vacant space on the first floors of the markets. Our demand need to be heard immediately otherwise we will be compelled to occupy the first floors of the markets by our own.

*Article provided by the Roadside Vendors Associations.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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