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'0.01% from minority communities benefit': Govt of India street vendors loan scheme

By Venkatesh Nayak* 

Over the last couple of weeks, I have shared three sets of preliminary findings with regard to the implementation of the country-wide PMSVANidhi scheme for street vendors, launched in June 2020. The implementing Ministry- Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) has also shared certain categories of data both within and outside Parliament since the inception of the scheme -- the latest being on 7th July, 2022, while announcing the launch of the SVANidhi Mahotsav across 75 cities where beneficiary street vendors go about their business.
This despatch contains trends with regard to the coverage of street vendors belonging to minority communities and those who are persons with disabilities (PwDs) under the PMSVANidhi scheme. The underlying data was obtained under The Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act). To the best of my knowledge neither the Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Housing and Urban Affairs, which released a report on the implementation of this scheme in December 2021, nor individual MPs have quizzed the Ministry about these aspects of implementation.
As mentioned in the previous despatch, this analysis is limited to the data supplied by MoHUA’s Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) under RTI in June 2022. MoHUA has put out more recent figures with regard to loan applications and disbursals last week. Those figures do not cover all data fields supplied under the RTI Act, such as the coverage of minority communities and PwDs. So, the dataset supplied by MoHUA’s CPIO cannot be updated comprehensively.
Click here for a backgrounder to the PMSVANidhi scheme.

The RTI Intervention

In May 2022, after researching implementation data publicised by the Union Government both inside and outside Parliament, I submitted an RTI application to MoHUA through the RTI Online Facility. The specific RTI queries relating to minorities and PwDs extracted from the original information request are given below:
“c) The State and UT-wise no. of street vendors belonging to… and PwD (Divyangjan) categories who have applied for loans in every financial year since the inception of the said scheme, till date,
d) The State and UT-wise no. of street vendors belonging to… and PwD (Divyangjan) categories to whom loans were disbursed in every financial year since the inception of the said scheme, till date,
e) The State and UT-wise no. of street vendors belonging to minorities category who have applied for loans in every financial year since the inception of the said scheme till date. Please provide minority community-wise break up,
f) The State and UT-wise no. of street vendors belonging to minorities category who have been disbursed loans in every financial year since the inception of the said scheme till date. Please provide minority community-wise break up…”

Click here to read the RTI application.
Within a month of receiving the RTI application, MoHUA’s Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) collected an additional fee of Rs. 50/- and supplied all the information sought, via email and in hard copy.
Click here for the CPIO’s reply and all data tables supplied under the RTI Act (loan applications and disbursals datasheets are at pages 6-8, 11-13 and 16-17 for minority communities. Datasheets relating to PwD beneficiaries are at pages 9-10 and 14-15.).
Click here for the open data sets relating to street vendors from minority communities and those who are PwDs.
I have analysed the figures with regard to PMSVANidhi loan applications filed by and loans disbursed to street vendors belonging to the following segments of society: minority communities and persons with disabilities (PwDs).
The datasheets which MoHUA’s CPIO supplied only refer to the category “minority community” without specifying the names of such communities. MoHUA intended to collect data about ‘minorities’ by making it mandatory for street vendor applicants to indicate if they belong to “Minority” community at paragraph no. 6 concerning “Nativity” in the PMSVANidhi loan application form. Under The National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 the Union Government has identified five religious communities as ‘minorities’, namely, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis). Presumably, the data supplied by MoHUA’s CPIO covers these religious communities only. The category of PwDs is reasonably clear as it is defined in The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

Preliminary analysis of the coverage of street vendors from the minority community under PMSVANidhi

a) 1st and 2nd loan applications

  • According to the data supplied by MoHUA’s CPIO, a total of 48.70 lakh (4.87 million) applications had been received for the 1st and 2nd loans across the country since the inception of the PMSVANidhi scheme until the date of my RTI application. Only 607 of these were submitted by street vendors belonging to the minority communities. This is a meagre 0.012% of the total number of applications. It is abysmally lower than the 3.35% figure reported for the Scheduled Tribes category. Click here for the social category-wise preliminary analysis of PMSVANidhi implementation data published last week.
  • While 529 1st loan applications were submitted by street vendors belonging to minority communities, only 77 were submitted for the 2nd loan.
  • UP, which topped the list of States and UTs with the highest number (8.7 lakhs or 870,086) of loan applications (both 1st and 2nd) reported only 12 applications from the minorities category.
  • The appetite for 2nd loans from this category of street vendors was also very poor. Only 43 of the 244 1st loan applicants belonging to the minority communities in Maharashtra applied for the 2nd loan as well. Similarly in Delhi only 22 of the 120 1st loan applicants applied for the 2nd loan in this category. In Gujarat also only three of the 16 1st loan applicants applied for the 2nd loan in this category. In UP which reported the highest number of 1st loan applications among the States and UTs, none of the minority community street vendors who got the 1st loan applied for the 2nd loan as per the data supplied by MoHUA’s CPIO.
Click here to read further details.

b) 1st and 2nd loan disbursals

  • According to the data supplied by MoHUA’s CPIO under the RTI Act, a total of 32.26 lakh (3.22 million) loans (both 1st and 2nd loans) were disbursed across the country since the inception of PMSVANidhi scheme until the date of my RTI application. Only 331 of these beneficiaries are street vendors belonging to the minority communities. This is 0.0102% of the total number of beneficiaries- much worse than those belonging to the ST category which accounts for 3.15% of the total number of beneficiaries.
  • Maharashtra reported the highest number (162) of minority community beneficiaries (both 1st and 2nd loans), followed by Delhi (110), Telangana (22), Gujarat (12) and Odisha (8) occupying 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th places respectively. AP reported three disbursals and Rajasthan two in this category.
  • UP reported the highest success rate of 100% as all 12 applicants secured the 1st loan (nobody had applied for the 2nd loan as on the date of the RTI intervention). Delhi reported a success rate of 77.46% followed by Telangana (66.67%) and Gujarat (63.16%). Despite reporting the largest number of applications (both 1st and 2nd loan), the success rate in Maharashtra was only 56.45%. The success rate in Odisha was 30.77% and in Rajasthan it was 25%.
  • The trends between 1st and 2nd loan disbursals are not being compared here as the figures for the latter are too miniscule. While 308 1st loans were disbursed to street vendors belonging to minority communities across the country, only 23 2nd loans were disbursed to them, according to the data supplied by MoHUA’s CPIO.
The low demand from and disbursal of 2nd loans to minority communities requires probing not only by MoHUA but also by Parliament and civil society groups working for the welfare of street vendors.

Preliminary analysis of the coverage of street vendors of PwD category under PMSVANidhi

a) 1st and 2nd loan applications- composite trends

  • As mentioned above, a total of 48.70 lakh (4.87 million) applications had been received for the 1st and 2nd loans across the country since the inception of the PMSVANidhi scheme until the date of my RTI application. A total of 48,618 of these were submitted by street vendors belonging to the category of persons with disabilities (PwD). This is barely 1% of the total figure which MoHUA’s CPIO supplied under the RTI Act.
  • Tamil Nadu topped the list with the highest number (8,631) of applications (both 1st and 2nd loans) received from the PwD category street vendors with UP coming a close 2nd (8,082). Karnataka with 6,105 applications, AP with 4,959 and Maharashtra with 4,485 take the 3rd, 4th and 5th places respectively.
Click here to read further details.

b) 1st and 2nd loan disbursals- composite trends

  • As mentioned above, a total of 32.26 lakh (3.22 million) loans (both 1st and 2nd loans) were disbursed across the country from the inception of the PMSVANidhi scheme until the date of my RTI application. Only 29,904 of these beneficiaries are street vendors from the PwD category. This is only 0.92% of the total number of beneficiaries according to the data supplied by MoHUA’s CPIO under the RTI Act. In other words, the proportion of beneficiaries is lesser than the proportion of applicants belonging to this category.
  • UP topped the list of States and UTs with the highest number (7,278) of loans disbursed (both 1st and 2nd) followed by Tamil Nadu coming in a distant second (3,796). Karnataka (3,745), AP (3,558) and Maharashtra (2,562) occupying the 3rd, 4th and 5th places respectively.
  • The South Indian States of AP, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and the UT of Puducherry together accounted for 58.15% of the 1st and 2nd loans disbursed to street vendors in the PwD category. UP and MP together accounted for 37.43% of the loans disbursed in this category. The remainder was shared by other States and UTs.
This uneven distribution of benefits under the PMSVANidhi scheme also requires deeper probing by Parliament and civil society groups working for the welfare of street vendors.
Click here to read further details.

c) 1st and 2nd loan applications -- comparative trends

  • Tamil Nadu topped the list of States and UTs with the greatest number (7,928) of 1st loan applications received from street vendors in the PwD category. UP came a close 2nd with 7,250 1st loan applications. Karnataka with 5,112, AP with 4,462 and Maharashtra with 3,867 1st loan applications in this category occupy the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th places respectively.
  • Karnataka topped the list of States and UTs with the highest number (993) of 2nd loan applications received from street vendors in the PwD category. UP reported 832, Tamil Nadu- 703, Maharashtra- 618 and Telangana- 558 occupying the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th positions respectively.
Click here to read further details.

d) 1st and 2nd loan disbursals- comparative trends

  • UP reported the highest number (6,900) of 1st loan disbursals to street vendors in the PwD category. Tamil Nadu came a distant 2nd with 3,716 1st loan disbursals followed by Karnataka (3,387), AP (3,363), Maharashtra (2,352) and Telangana (1,650) occupying 3rd, 4th and 5th places respectively in this category.
  • UP also reported the highest number (378) of 2nd loan disbursals also in the PwD street vendors category. Karnataka (358), Maharashtra and Telangana (210 each) and AP (195) occupy 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th places respectively.
Click here to read further details.

Conclusion

Some ‘self-appointed’ custodians of the RTI fraternity have asked me why I choose these kinds of topics for my RTI interventions when there are other pressing matters. Although I believe I owe no explanation to anybody for the exercise of my constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right to seek and obtain information, this is one occasion when I think I can offer my reasoning to readers. The first part of the reasoning is personal. I rely on street vendors entirely for my vegetable and fruits shopping where I live in Delhi. This is the bare minimum I can do to convey my gratitude above and beyond the price I pay for the purchases.
The second part of my reasoning for this intervention is more public spirited. Seventeen years ago, Parliament enacted the RTI Act in response to the grassroots level demand for a strong and progressive national level transparency law. At that time, many of its opponents within and outside the bureaucracy questioned the wisdom of introducing a new layer of transparency and accountability. Parliament and State Legislatures were already performing this accountability-seeking role, they said. What purpose will empowering the citizenry to demand access to government records serve, except divert the attention, energy, resources and the time of the public administration from more important official business, they asked. In recent years, this opposition to restoring citizens to their rightful role in the democratic process has only deepened with repeated allegations being made about the “misuse” of RTI by “RTI activists”.
This despatch and the three immediately (click here here and here) preceding ones are part of a tiny effort to demonstrate how RTI can serve as a potent tool to probe matters of public interest a lot deeper than what individual MPs and parliamentary committees often manage to do, despite spending large volumes of taxpayers’ money on such exercises. In these despatches relating to the implementation of the PMSVANidhi scheme, I believe I have demonstrated how RTI has proved useful to obtain implementation data which Parliament does not focus on much.
To the best of my knowledge, none of these dimensions of the PMSVANidhi scheme's implementation have been quizzed either on the floor of Parliament or in its committees. By way of concluding, it might not be out of place to parody the last line of the popular sci-fi TV series -- Star Trek’s opening message: “RTI helps citizens to boldly go where Legislatures have not gone before.”
It is hoped that Parliament will go a lot deeper than it is possible for an individual like me to ask more probing questions about the manner of implementation of the PMSVANidhi scheme in the ongoing and future sessions.
All facts are in the public domain. Views are personal.
---
*With Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative

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