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Relief to street vendors, daily wagers: Gujarat told to follow UP, Maharashtra, Delhi

Counterview Desk 

Gujarat's senior human rights and environmental activists Krishnakant Chauhan and Rohit Prajapati of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) have urgently sought relief policy, which should include a sustenance allowance of at least Rs 5,000 for the state's street vendors and other daily wagers till the current "blanket restrictions without considering impacts of ongoing economic despair situation and health crisis".
Insisting that the restrictions have imposed distress on the marginalised sections, the PUCL activists, in a letter to chief minister Vijay Rupani, said that there is a need to enlarge scope of food ration support under the public distribution system (PDS) by including vegetables, cooking oil, fuel, pulses, milk etc. for the poor, pointing out, states like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and New Delhi have already announced a generous support for the poor and street vendors.

Text:

The country is reeling under the crisis of Covid-19 pandemic, which has wrecked havoc world over. The containment strategies put up by the centre and state government has to some extent assured a sense of safety among the citizens.
The sudden lockdown announced by centre in march 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19 in India, had it own merits and demerits. However one thing that was undisputable that the restrictions imposed on the citizens led to severe economic crisis for many. Specially daily wagers – women and men. Measures were announced by the centre in terms of allotment of more food grains through PDS system and also economic packages in the form of relief and loans (PM SVANidhi) to restart the livelihood activities for many including Street Vendors/Hawkers.
PUCL as a civil liberties organisation played a coordinating role during the first covid-19 wave ensuring dissemination of information, connecting needy to the various relief efforts, counselling the anxious migrant labours and assisting them in transportation when travel was allowed.
With the lifting of lockdown restrictions and unlock process people engaged themselves in rebuilding their lives and livelihood. The centre announced economic package to boost the staggered economy.
Suddenly the second covid-19 wave has struck the country and this time the state governments were trusted with handling of covid-19 containment through localised efforts with the centre issuing guidelines. Last year’s experience from the handling of the crisis has led to the state of Gujarat opting out of complete lockdown and going for selective severe restrictions to curb the massive spread of Covid-19 in the second wave.
Gujarat has opted for a partial restriction model curbing the movement of the citizens through night curfew and restrictions on certain economic, social and religious activities.
Initially night curfew was imposed in the 4 commissionerate areas of Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot since February 2021 through local notifications. Later through a state notification dated April 6, 2021 the night curfew and restrictions were extended to 20 cities till April 30, 2021. Thus the restrictions were extended time and again to contain the pandemic. Notification dated April 27, 2021 extended restrictions to the whole state and night curfew in 29 cities from April 28, 2021 till May 5,2021. From May 6, 2021 till May 12, 2021 the night curfew was extended to 36 cities and restrictions remained in force for the whole of state. Again the notification was extended till May 18, 2021 and again due to Tauktae cyclone restrictions were further extended till May 21, 2021morning. The night curfew has now been extended till May 28, 2021 and the day time restrictions have been eased.
However the economic impact of the same on daily wagers has not been addressed as no relief policy to cushion the impacted street vendors and vulnerable daily wagers was announced. People kept hoping that the restrictions would end soon, however the extension of the restrictions have mentally rattled and economically ravaged the poor and marginalised. Adding to the despair situation they were passing through.
During the period of restrictions, the street vendors who earn their livelihood on a daily basis were categorically banned from doing business except vegetable and fruit sellers. Street vendors are engaged in a variety of work from vegetable, fruit, cloth, masks, small repairing, sharpening of scissors, cutlery, stationery, street food, etc. 
A random survey done by local civil society organisations (CSOs) in various towns of Gujarat shows that there is many fold increase in street vending with many of the economically distressed persons taking to street vending. Thus on one hand the vendors were disallowed and on the other there was an increase in number of hawkers thus increasing the competition or reducing earning opportunities for the existing vendors who have only source of livelihood.
Daily family expenses and monthly expenses like room rent, utility bills, food requirements, phone data charges for children online education, other incidental expenses cannot be met without livelihood. With meagre savings exhausted and excess lending from family friends and private individuals, the families of street vendors are in a situation of despair. An urgent attention is required to their issue.
With the end to the covid-19 crisis seeming far, we urge the state government to come up with a comprehensive policy for the daily wagers including street vendors. Various town/city in Gujarat have recognised Town Vending Committee or Hawkers associations, they can be engaged and their services utilised in formulating a exemplary policy for Gujarat.
Here are few suggestions to ease the life of Street vending community of the state:
  1. Cash support to registered vendors with atleast Rs 5,000 per family of 5 persons as sustenance allowance for months May and June be announced.
  2. Post June sustenance allowance to be reviewed considering the unfolding pandemic situation.
  3. Enlarging scope of food ration support under PDS by including vegetables, cooking oil, fuel, pulses, milk etc.
  4. Issuing ‘MA’ health cards to family members of all registered vendors and vendors identified by TVC or Street vendors associations.
  5. School fee waiver of the vendors children for the academic year 2020-21 and 2021-22.
  6. Moratorium on rent, protection from eviction and any other support in terms of Room rent for the needy.
  7. Street food vendors be allowed to do business and earn for themselves at par with hotels/restaurants with applicable covid-19 precautions.
  8. Allowing temporary markets on open plots 3 days in a week, with adequate covid-19 precautions.
  9. Moratorium on all loan repayment, including under the PM SVaNidhi scheme and waiver/reduction of interest.
  10. Floating of a similar loan scheme or extension of the PM SVaNidhi scheme to needy.
The Town Vending Committee, Hawkers Association, etc can be made part of the committee to implement the above suggestions. The PM SVaNidhi Scheme list the beneficiary criteria as
“…4. Eligibility Criteria of Beneficiaries
The Scheme is available to all street vendors engaged in vending in urban areas as on or before March 24, 2020. The eligible vendors will be identified as per following criteria:
(i) Street vendors in possession of Certificate of Vending / Identity Card issued by Urban
Local Bodies (ULBs); (ii) The vendors, who have been identified in the survey but have not been issued Certificate of Vending / Identity Card;
Provisional Certificate of Vending would be generated for such vendors through an IT based Platform. ULBs are encouraged to issue such vendors the permanent Certificate of Vending and Identification Card immediately and positively within a period of one month.
(iii) Street Vendors, left out of the ULBled identification survey or who have started vending after completion of the survey and have been issued Letter of Recommendation (LoR) to that effect by the ULB / Town Vending Committee (TVC); and
(iv) The vendors of surrounding development/ peri-urban / rural areas vending in the geographical limits of the ULBs and have been issued Letter of Recommendation (LoR) to that effect by the ULB / TVC.
5. Identification of Beneficiaries left out of the Survey or belonging to the surrounding Rural Areas While identifying the vendors belonging to category 4 (iii) and (iv), the ULB/ TVC may consider any of the following documents to issue letters of recommendation:
(i) The list of vendors, prepared by certain States/ UTs, for providing one-time assistance during the period of lockdown; OR
(ii) A system generated request sent to ULBs/ TVCs for issue of LoR based on the recommendation of the Lender after verifying the credentials of the applicant; OR (iii) The membership details with the vendors associations including National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI)/ National Hawkers Federation (NHF)/ Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) etc.; OR (iv) The documents in possession of the vendor buttressing his claim of vending; OR (v) Report of local enquiry conducted by ULB/ TVC involving Self-Help Groups (SHGs), Community Based Organizations (CBOs) etc. ULB shall complete the verification and issuance of LoR within 15 days of the submission of application.
Further, ULBs may adopt any other alternate way for identifying such vendors with a view to ensure that all the eligible vendors are positively covered…”

A large numbers of women are also involved with the street vending and any benefits extended would empower the women too.
We urge you to urgently attend to the issue and announce an appropriate and comprehensive Relief Policy for street vendors/hawkers and daily wage earners.

Comments

Unknown said…
Absolutely correct suggestion, street vendors and middle class families are suffering alot, Gujarat government should look after them and help them.

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