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A worthwhile effort from Manushi



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Memorandum Submitted to the Lt. Governor on Behalf of Delhi's Street
Vendors and Rickshaw Pullers & Owners
October 2, 2001


Dear Lt. Governor,

We have gathered here on Gandhi Jayanti to express our support for the
Prime Minister's New Policy for street vendors and cycle rickshaw operators
as well as to protest against official attempts to sabotage it. This New
policy, which came in response to Manushi's campaign on behalf of these two
sectors, marks the beginning of pro poor economic reforms in India. These
are the kind of reforms that Bapu would have liked to see take place soon
after Independence as part of a concerted effort to decolonise the Indian
economy. To quote Bapu: "the pressure from the top crushes those at the
bottom. All that is necessary is to get off their backs."

Today, our entire economy is being crushed by the dead weight of our
officialdom which has perfected the art of devising laws, rules and
regulations which facilitate extortion and compel people to appear as
grovelling supplicants before various agents of the all pervasive sarkar.
While the harmful effects of the needless bureaucratic controls on the
health of our industry and the corporate sector have been reluctantly
recognised, there is much less awareness of how much more deadly the
stranglehold of the License-Quota-Raid Raj is on the livelihoods of the poor.

The PM's policy draft sent to you for implementation states it
categorically that "The existing licensing system with quantitative limits
must be scrapped forthwith and that "the policy reform must seek to
eliminate the scope for rent seeking and harassment by licensing and
enforcement officials, recognise street hawking and [plying] cycle
rickshaws as legitimate occupations which help reduce poverty, and
facilitate their integration into the formal economy." 

Sabotage by Delhi Administration
However the task of translating that policy into a legal framework and
implementation of those laws is left in the hands of the same municipal and
police authorities that are currently running extortion rackets. As
expected, they are working overtime to sabotage the PMO's policy that
sincerely attempts to redress many of the genuine grievances of vendors and
rickshaw operators. Actual assaults on the street hawkers and rickshaw
operators have increased. Raids, confiscation of goods, rehdis and
rickshaws are being carried out with greater ferocity, frequency and
vengeance, just to drive home the message that the municipal inspectors and
local policemen are the real gods-that even the PM's writ cannot run
contrary to their wishes.

Some blatant examples of sabotage:
	The PMO's policy draft had directed that "the metropolis may be divided
into "green," "amber," and "red zones," signifying free access, fee based
access and prohibited access for vendors and rickshaws.  The latest
notification issued by the Traffic Police has effectively banned the entry
of rickshaws and vendors not just in "red zones" but also in large parts of
the city earmarked as "amber" zones by notifying that rickshaws and vendors
cannot operate in these areas between 8 am. and 10pm! Who would need their
services after the city has gone to sleep?  This makes a mockery of the
PM's directive and policy note which had envisaged free access for
rickshaws and vendors without numerical restrictions in "amber" zones under
the "pay and hawk" scheme.
	It was recently reported in the press that space for 80,000 uprooted
hawkers would be provided in the hawkers haats proposed to be created by
the MCD.  Where does the figure of 80,000 come from when there are no less
than 5-6 lakh hawkers operating in Delhi?  The PMO's policy framework note
had made it clear that the existing licensing system with "quantative
limits" must be scrapped forthwith.  Why then are officials talking of
80,000 street vendors, as though that is a definite ceiling figure for now
and all times to come? MANUSHI is also getting reports from different
markets of Delhi that the corporation inspectors are making a pretense of
carrying out surveys to identify who these lucky 80,000 will be.  In the
process, they are trying to collect hefty bribes from gullible hawkers who
are promised that only those who pay up will have their names included in
the survey.
	Newspapers have also reported that in the new haats proposed to be
constructed by municipal authorities, a certain fixed number of vendors
will be allowed to come on a daily "first come, first served" basis under
the "pay and hawk" scheme. The PM's note had clearly laid down that there
should be no attempt to regulate the numbers of hawkers, except in certain
"red zones" earmarked as 'no hawking' or restricted hawking areas. If this
regulatory system is put in place, police and MCD inspectors will ensure
that only their bribe paying touts are "first served" in such haats. Police
routinely use violence and threats of arrest on trumped up charges to drive
out of markets all those who try resisting their ever escalating bribe
rates. But today if hawkers pay up a monthly bribe, they have some security
of livelihood. Even that will be denied to them, if the space allocation in
haats is done on a daily basis.
	On Sep 29, the municipal authorities were quoted in The Hindustan Times
saying that the MCD will be constructing new haats in each one of its 12
municipal zones. These are supposed to work on 3 to 4 days a week between 9
am to 6 pm. If these markets are to come into existence by destroying the
existing "natural markets" created by street vendors, then lakhs are likely
to loose their livelihood. Also why impose sarkari work schedules (four
days a week, between 9 am to 6 pm!) on these hardworking self-employed
entrepreneurs who add dynamism to city economy by keeping "natural markets"
bustling from early morning till late night? Instead of creating new
sarkari haats" where entry will be regulated by officials, thus further
legitimising corruption, it is far more practical to recognise and provide
necessary facilities to the existing "natural markets" set up by these
street smart entrepreneurs who understand the market demand and supply
equation far better than bureaucratic planners.
	Similar distortions are likely to creep in the rickshaw policy if after
the abolition of the quota system the existing policy of restricting
licenses only to the pullers, stays intact. The existence of rickshaw
contractors must also be legalised otherwise they will remain easy targets
of extortion. If a person can legitimately own any number of trucks, buses,
cars, taxis and put them on hire, why is it considered a crime to own 5-10
or even 200 rickshaws?
	One of the most worrisome development of recent months is that the police
has been empowered to take independent initiative to remove rickshaws and
vendors from Delhi streets. Earlier, this was the primary responsibility of
the municipal authorities who could call the police to assist them as and
when required. Enchanced power to the police means that bribe rates have
gone up dramatically as also the frequency of confiscation. Resisting
police bribes is much more dangerous, because apart from using violence,
the police threaten to implicate people in cooked up criminal cases saying
they will make them rot in jail for a whole life time.

We are sure you would agree that for effective maintenance of law and
order, citizens should have faith in the ability of the police to protect
life and property. However, the increasing tendency of our administrators
to use the police to carry out attacks on citizens, to wreck their
livelihoods and keep them in terror is not only breeding unbridled
corruption in the police, but also destroying their ability to maintain law
and order. Today, our country is facing grave dangers from hostile powers.
At such a time, if most of the energy of the police is spent on carrying on
an economic war against honest, hardworking citizens and devising newer and
newer ways of collecting bribes from them, then the police are not going to
be able to meet the increasing threats to our national security. Police
patronage of criminals and touts impair their ability to gather effective
intelligence and combat crime, since honest citizens have begun to shun the
police.

Since the task of implementing this policy rests with the Lt. Governor, we
urge you to:
1) Ensure that the new laws and regulations for the rickshaw sector and
street vendors are concretised and implemented in partnership with
legitimate representatives of these two occupational groups. The PMO's
policy note clearly envisages that organisations like MANUSHI which have
played a role in highlighting the plight of street vendors and rickshaw
pullers would be included as partners in the task of institutionalising the
new policy and its actual implementation. On behalf of vendors and rickshaw
operators, we assure you our full cooperation in effective adherence to the
new dispensation, if representatives of these two sectors are involved in
working out practical rules and regulations which respect their legitimate
requirements, as also that of citizens who use their services. 
2)	Stop the continuing raids, 'clearance operations' and confiscation of
goods, rehdis and rickshaws with immediate effect because that goes against
the basic tenets of the Prime Minister's policy which your office is
expected to implement.
3)	Confine the role of the police to maintaining law and order and
apprehending criminals rather than carrying out economic assaults on
honest, hard working citizens.
4) Set up an independent monitoring committee comprising of people
acceptable to both sides with adequate powers to ensure that the New Policy
is implemented with sincerity and respect for the spirit and intent with
which it was drafted. 

Only if the affected people are made stake holders in the new system, will
it prove capable of redressing the genuine and legitimate grievances of
those involved in these sectors and enable them to earn their livelihoods
in dignity. For too long the citizens of this country have been treated as
colonial subjects who are to be browbeaten into submission by the use of
coercive and exploitative laws. Let us make a new beginning in effective
governance through citizen's active participation and cooperation as
stakeholders. 


Sincerely




Madhu Kishwar,
MANUSHI NAGRIK ADHIKAR MANCH
On behalf of Street Vendors and Rickshaw Operators of Delhi.



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