A DAY after Delhi Congress president Ajay Maken met street vendors in North Delhi and promised to issue 5 lakh licences if the Congress wins the MCD elections, shopkeepers and vendors expressed doubts about the feasibility of the move. They alleged that all political parties have been making false promises to identify and allot space to street vendors, and clear congested market areas of encroachments, but nothing has been done so far.
“I have been trying to apply for a licence for years now but the MCD never issues me one, citing missing documents. Without a licence, we are at the mercy of the land mafia and police. We pay them the weekly commission to claim our piece of land,” Raj Kumar, a fruit vendor in Old Delhi, said.
According to the Street Vendors’ Protection Act, 2.5 per cent or 5 lakh of Delhi’s total population are street vendors.
Maken, in a statement, had said, “Even if Rs 1,000 is charged as monthly licence fee from each street vendor, the government would be able to mop up Rs 600 crore annually. That money can be used to pay the salaries of the sanitation workers on time, so that they do not resort to strikes to get their wages.”
Md Salim, the owner of a licenced dates shop in Meena Bazaar near Jama Masjid, said issuing licences will not solve the problem.
“The MCD identifies space in areas and allots them to vendors. But the allottees rent out the place to someone else and come back to the main markets because there is business here. The MCD should ensure compliance, only then will the matter be addressed,” he said.
Sanjeev Kapoor, general secretary of the Lajpat Nagar Beopar Mandal, said, “All political parties make tall promises but all are false. It has been years but the corporations have not come up with a single policy to identify an alternate space for street vendors. In cities such as Bangkok, the government has set up flea markets where vendors can sell through the night while licenced shopkeepers do their business during the day. A policy like this will ensure profits and earnings to both shopkeepers and vendors.”
Late last year, the AAP government had directed the three corporations not to evict hawkers after a High Court order specified that vendors should not be forcefully evicted. This, however, did not apply to “no-vending zones”, which prompted largescale evictions in markets such as Sarojini Nagar, Lajpat Nagar and Karol Bagh.
Maken, who is a petitioner in the case, alleged that the municipal corporations and police have been using the order to harass vendors.