The Meghalaya and Greater Shillong Progressive Hawkers and Street Vendors Association along with Thma U Rangli-Juki had organized a public meeting on 23rd June 2016, to discuss and dialogue over the daily problems confronted by hawkers all over Shillong and some other urban centres around the state.
The meeting concluded with the submission of a memorandum to the Chief Minister via the Urban Affairs Minister at the Secretariat.
The meeting was understood as the first step towards collectively approaching the government with regards to issues that continue to cripple hawkers in the city.
The gathering was one of its kind in the context of Meghalaya since it was one which articulated a type of progressive politics which ran across ethnicities and which saw an enthusiastic collective engagement of hawkers from different parts of the city.
Interestingly, although the meeting was a very peaceful one, it seemed as if the government was prepared for battle since there were three police-filled buses as well as a water cannon at the site.
Unfortunately, the meeting with the Urban Affairs Minister and other officials like the SP and the DC was not fruitful as they were not willing to follow the directions of the High Court Stay Order which states that all evictions are to be stopped immediately.
Responding to this, the hawkers have collectively decided that will continue with their businesses on the streets as they can no longer tolerate the State’s iron hand depriving them the right to livelihood.
Below is the memorandum submitted to the Chief Minister:
23rd June 2016
The Chief Minister,
(Via the Minister of Urban Affairs)
Govt. of Meghalaya,
Subject: Memorandum of Demands on the rights of Hawkers and street vendors in Meghalaya.
We the members of the Meghalaya and Greater Shillong Progressive Hawkers and Street Vendors Association and Thma u Rangli- Juki(TUR) would like to highlight the issues concerning the hawkers and street vendors in the state trusting that you will proactively look into addressing the same.
First and foremost, we would like to reiterate that we are full citizens of this nation for whom the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution are very much for us as for any other person in the country, and hence we urge the state to ensure that our right to life and right to livelihoods is protected.
In fact, many policies of the government urges the citizens to stand up and strive to engage in gainful economic activities. What we do is informed by that spirit of entrepreneurship that we hope will help us to make a living wage with which we can support our families and also contribute to the economy of the state. However, it is unfortunate that we are instead demonised and subjected to much brutality by the administration including the municipality and police. The action by the state also shapes society’s perception of who we are and we are blamed for the congestion in the city, for its waste and even crimes, when the root cause lies elsewhere.
What triggers internal migration to Shillong and other urban centers in Meghalaya like Shillong, Tura, Nongpoh and Jowai is the fact that there is a collapse not just of economic activities including agriculture in the villages but also an absolute lack of basic amenities such as education and healthcare. Further, the congestion particularly in Shillong has been caused by the alarming increase year after year of the number of vehicles on the roads. Yet it is us the hawkers who are honestly trying to eke out a living who are accused of bringing about these problems.
This is the reality for us hawkers and we therefore demand for the following:
- Decriminalising of the hawkers and street vendors in Shillong. Ensuring there is no illegal evictions, brutality, threats, and illegal damaging and confiscation of our goods.
- In a participatory manner, to Review and amend the Meghalaya Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending ) Act 2014 to bring it in line with provision of the Central Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act 2014 ensuring the following-
(a) constituting of a town vending committee (TVC)that has 50 % members belonging to the hawkers and vendors community
(b) immediate participatory survey once the TVC is constituted. This is to be done by an independent body in association with the the Meghalaya and Greater Shillong Progressive Hawkers and Street Vendors Association.
(c) assigning natural and heritage markets
(d) make several other changes to the Meghalaya law and insert more provisions to ensure rights of hawkers and street vendors.A detailed clause wise critique of the meghalaya law and suggestions for change are attached herewith as Annexure 1.
Till such time when we along with the government can bring about a transparent and effective law to govern hawking and street vending we will continue with our economic activities and we demand that our rights be safeguarded and to ensure that there are no illegal eviction drives, illegal confiscation of goods and brutality against us.
- Strengthening public transport system particularly in Shillong to ease congestion and putting in place a policy for reducing the number of cars on the road and having no car zones and more no parking zones such that the rights of pedestrians may be ensured.
- Strengthening public delivery services such as health care, ensuring quality education,uplifting agriculture, economic activities and markets in the district towns and villages to check forced internal migrations.
Together we all wish that our state progresses and that there is renewal not merely in the urban centres but overall. We wish to see an end to poverty including urban poverty, and we wish to see our towns and shillong grow into places that are inclusive and that supports life for all.
We trust that you and your government will meaningfully engage with us to fulfill the demands we have highlighted above and we urge for this dialogue to begin at the earliest given that the issue at hand is one that affects our everyday life.
We wish to reiterate once again that till such time that there is a transparent, effective and workable law in place and that provisions of the law have been fulfilled and mechanisms put in place we will continue with our livelihood activities in the respective areas and places where we have carried out these activities and we urge you to ensure that protection is accorded to us against forced and illegal evictions, threats, physical and verbal abuse and illegal damaging and confiscation of our goods.
Meghalaya and Greater Shillong Progressive Hawkers and Street Vendors Association and Thma u Rangli- Juki. (TUR)