The Prime Minister Street Vendor’s Atmanirbhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi), an interest-free loan scheme rolled out by the Centre to provide working capital to street vendors affected by the nationwide lockdown, may now be caught between the Centre and Maharashtra government.
While the Centre had nudged Maharashtra to rid the application process of certain discrepancies, state government officials said there are no discrepancies, and the scheme is, in fact, being implemented in toto.
Sources in the Union government told The Indian Express that the secretary, Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, had written to Maharashtra chief secretary on October 27, “raising and reiterating issues about the discrepancies and problems in implementation of Street Vendors Act, 2014, and PM SVANidhi scheme for street vendors to resume livelihoods”.
The letter, it is learnt, mentions that the scheme was not taking off in Maharashtra “due to issues created by the State government”.
In a review meeting of PM SVANidhi on October 16, sources said, multiple issues were flagged by the Centre to Maharashtra. “Many street vendors who are identified in the survey conducted by the State are not registered as eligible for benefits under PM SVANidhi Scheme,” a source said. “As per the scheme, the condition of domicile of street vendors has been imposed for their registration.”
Sources in the Union government said that 1,63,309 Letter of Recommendations (LoRs) were issued to applicants in Maharashtra until October 16, but they are yet to be issued the Certificate of Vending (CoV). The LoR and CoV are issued by urban local bodies under the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vendors) Act, 2014.
The Indian Express had reported on October 6 that more than 20 lakh street vendors across the country had applied for interest-free loan under PM SVANidhi, and nearly 2 lakh vendors had until then received the benefit. The loan needs to be repaid within a year under the scheme, which was launched in June with a sanctioned budget of Rs 700 crore. Upon repayment, a vendor is eligible for another Rs 10,000 as loan.
While the Centre contends that the Maharashtra government was told that not registering vendors identified in the state’s survey, and insisting on their domicile certificates before their registration, are against provisions of the 2014 Act, senior officials of the state Urban Development Department said the state had not imposed any additional conditions for street vendors to avail the scheme. However, they said, some bank branches processing their applications have, in many cases, sought additional documents such as domicile certificate, CRISIL rating or documents for e-KYC from applicants.
Mahesh Pathak, Principal Secretary, Urban Development-II, Maharashtra, said about 2.60 lakh applications were received from street vendors in the state, of which nearly 20 percent has been approved. He said very few applications are rejected; the rest are pending.
“Three meetings were held regarding this but no such issue was raised,” Pathak said. “In fact, there was a VC meeting held only three days ago with Government of India officials, all corporation officials – I also attended that meeting – but no such discrepancies were discussed.
“This scheme is being reviewed at the highest levels. We have not sought any additional documents from applicants and the Central scheme is being followed in toto.”
Some bank branches “may have sought additional documents from the applicants,” he said.
In the online application to avail benefits of PM SVANidhi scheme, applicants are asked to choose their preferred bank and branch in a dropdown menu, and many choose the bank closest to their home or the one that they may already have an account in, Haider Imam, general secretary of AITUC Hawkers’ Union, said.
Of 6,500 members of his union in Mumbai, Imam said none has yet received the scheme’s benefit.
Sharad Bande, Superintendent of Licence department, BMC, said, “We have not imposed any new condition for which hawkers are finding it hard to avail benefit of the scheme. All surveyed hawkers have been asked to submit their forms to the nearest municipal ward offices. I have asked our staff to assist hawkers if they face difficulties in filling the forms. The BMC’s role is to give them a platform to avail the benefit.”
In the series ‘On the brink, in the city’, The Indian Express had reported on October 29 that street vendors, like thousands of self-employed people in Mumbai, are facing economic hardship like never before, as they struggle to revive their small but self-reliant businesses even after the lockdown had started to wind down in Maharashtra.
According to BMC data, there are only 15,361 eligible hawkers in Mumbai out of 99,435 applications they received in 2014. The civic body had conducted a survey under The Street Vendors Act 2014. The BMC has, however, encouraged all street vendors, irrespective of eligibility in its 2014 survey, to apply for the loan scheme, officials said.
Pathak said the state government has, over the last one month, raised efforts in helping street vendors avail the scheme over the last one month, which has brought about an increase in the number of approved applications from 15 per cent to 20 per cent.
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