A recent story from The Hindu reports that legislation has been passed protecting street vendors. According to the story, the Street Vendors Bill “provides for security and protection of the livelihood of all street vendors who have a vending certificate”. This is undoubtedly good news. Street vending is not only an essential aspect of many urban economies, it also provides employment for many economically, socially, and politically marginalized groups in the city. Despite this, street vendors are often harassed by authorities and treated with scorn by more affluent residents.
The law was welcomed by the National Association of Street Vendors of India, and while it represents progress, it remains to be seen how effective it will be in providing genuine security. There is often a wide gulf between the letter of a law and enforcement of its spirit. This particular bill mandates the creation of Town and Zonal Vending Committees in every city, for example, presumably to issue vending certificates. Vendors are guaranteed representation, but at 40 percent. For a nice overview of the issues, check out the Delhi-based PRS Legislative Research analysis here. And there’s an interesting critique of an earlier version of the bill by Sharit Bhowmik here.