If you have been following the mainstream Shillong media or reading/hearing the influential opinion-makers of the town, you would be right to think that the Hawking and Vending is an illegal activity which needs to be stamped out. But that is not the case. Illegality is a myth.
Unlike what you hear in polite circles of Meghalaya, Right to Street Vending & Hawking is guaranteed by the force of Law. Based on the directions of the Supreme Court of India, in 2014, Central government made a law called THE STREET VENDORS (PROTECTION OF LIVELIHOOD AND REGULATION OF STREET VENDING) ACT, 2014 to protect the livelihoods of Hawkers and Vendors as well as to regulate vending in a just manner.
But Government of Meghalaya has failed to implement this law. Instead of notifying and framing the rules for the above-mentioned Central Act which received Presidential Assent on 4th March, 2014, Meghalaya government enacted constitutionally untenable, anti-hawker The Meghalaya Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act in November 2014. Meghalaya govt tried to enact its own ‘unconstitutional’ law because it realized that the Central Law breaks the ‘autocratic’, ‘arbitrary’ and ‘corrupt’ patronage and control, Meghalaya politicians, bureaucrats and police wield over the livelihoods of the people.
So what is in this Central Govt’s law which frightens the government in Meghalaya so much. We have a done a handy short FAQ about the law to enable you to have informed opinion about the situation rather than remain stuck in rumours and prejudice.
WHEN DID GOVERNMENT OF INDIA LEGISLATE THE LAW?
The ‘Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014’ received the assent of the President on the 4th March, 2014 and became applicable throughout the country except Jammu and Kashmir. The different state governments had been given one year from the date of notification of this Act to make rules for carrying out the provision of this Act (Chapter X, 36 (1)).
WHO IS A HAWKER/ STREET VENDOR?
Street vendor means someone who is engaged in selling wares to the public while standing on the footpath, pavement, public park (Chapter I, 1 (l)) or someone who moves from one place to another, i.e., mobile vendors (Chapter I, 1 (d)).
Defined in such a manner a street vendor also has right to the footpath or public places which has income earning potential.
WHO SHALL REGUALTE STREET VENDING & HAWKING?
The act provides for the constitution of a Town Vending Committee (TVC) in every local authority (Chapter VII, 21 (1)) which has the responsibility to maintain records of hawkers ((Chapter VII, 26 (2)), provide certificate of vending (Chapter VII, 26 (1)) and carry out the necessary social audits (Chapter VII, 26 (3)).
It is the TVC and no other authority, neither the Municipal Board or MUDA or the Urban Affairs department which has the power to decide on the eligibility of a hawker to conduct his/her business or otherwise. This is to ensure that there is a proper authority which is specifically concerned with the street vendors.
WHO SHALL BE THE MEMBERS OF TVC?
To make sure that the interest of all stakeholders is taken into consideration, the Act specifies the composition of the TVC and makes it inclusive.
- TVC, is to be headed by the Municipal Commissioner or Chief Executive Officer of Municipal board(Chapter VII, 22 (2) a),
- Hawkers representatives – not less than 40% (Chapter VII, 22 (2) d),
- Community based organizations – not less than 10% (Chapter VII, 22 (2) c),
- Government representatives, police, health, and local bodies 50% or less (Chapter VII, 22 (2) d).
This is a very important since it ensures that the decision making process has the input of all relevant stakeholders. Also unlike the Meghalaya Act, Central Act ensures proper participation of Hawkers in regulation of their Livelihood
HOW WILL THE STREET VENDORS & HAWKERS BE IDENTIFIED?
The TVC has to conduct a survey every five years to assess the number of street vendors/hawkers who are doing business in the operating area (Chapter II, 3 (1)) and unless this is done and certificate of vending is provided (Chapter VII, 26 (1)) no street vendor should not be evicted or relocated under any circumstances (Chapter II, 3 (3)). This is done to ensure that without due process harassment of vendors is avoided.
HOW MANY HAWKERS CAN A TOWN ACCOMMODATE?
The survey undertaken by the TVC will also assess the holding capacity of the area (Chapter I, 2 (1) b), i.e., number of hawkers that can be accommodated in an area. The act specifies that any town/city can accommodate 2.5% of the total population as Hawkers (Chapter II, 3 (2));
WHERE CAN HAWKING & STREET VENDING BE DONE?
The TVC will also categorise various types of vending zones, viz., Restriction Free Vending Zone, Restricted Vending Zone and No Vending Zone (First Schedule 2 (c));
TVC will also identity natural markets (Chapter I, 2 (1) e) which cannot be declared as a No Vending zone under any circumstances (First Schedule 3, a) and heritage markets, more than 50 years old, from where street vendors cannot be relocated under any circumstances (Second Schedule, zb (viii)).
This basically means that Hawkers cannot be totally kept away from commercial areas of Shillong.
HOW CAN AN AREA BE DECLARED A ‘NO VENDING ZONE’?
The Act states that “till such time that the survey is done and a proper plan for street vending formulated, no area can be declared as No Vending Zone (First Schedule 3, a).
WHEN CAN A HAWKER/STREET VENDOR BE EVICTED?
Till the time TVC has done the Survey to identify Hawkers, vending zones, categorizing markets and certificate of vending is provided to every eligible hawker (Chapter VII, 26 (1)) no street vendor can be evicted or relocated under any circumstances (Chapter II, 3 (3)).
HOW SHOULD THE EVICTION BE DONE?
Act ensures that the eviction process is humane and just. In case there is to be eviction or relocation of any street vendor, the Act provides certain guidelines that are to be followed:
- No eviction or relocation unless 30 days’ notice (Chapter IV, 18 (3)),
- Provide list/challan of items seized (Chapter IV, 19 (1)),
- Items to be returned within two days of claim after fine but same day of claim in case of perishable items (Chapter IV, 19 (3)).
HOW WILL THE HAWKERS/STREET VENDORS BE RELOCATED?
The Act ensures that relocation is not arbitrary and livelihood is protected. When relocation does take place, the Act specifies that it must again adhere to certain principles. Relocation should be avoided unless :
- there is an urgent need for land (Second Schedule, zb (i)),
- vendors representatives should be involved in planning and implementation of the rehabilitation project (Second Schedule, zb (ii)),
- relocation should improve the livelihood not bring it down (Second Schedule, zb (iii)),
- new infrastructure development projects shall accommodate the displaced vendors (Second Schedule, zb (iv)), and
- loss of assets should be compensated (Second Schedule, zb (iv)),
SO CAN HAWKERS & STREET VENDORS CONDUCT THEIR BUSINESS?
And finally any street vendor who is carries on his/her own business in accordance to the provisions laid down in the Act should not be stopped from exercising his/her right by any authority (Chapter VIII, 27). The ACT ensures that law abiding, honest business people are not harassed for arbitrary reasons by invoking any unjust reasons.
To know the law in much more detail, you can download the act from the link below.