Evicting Street Vendors

Rahul Kapoor

Connaught place inner Circle also known as Rajiv Chowk has been an informal market of street vendors, hawkers in Delhi since last many decades. Hundreds of street vendors earn their livelihood through this market. On 11th October 2021 a division bench of the Delhi High Court ordered an eviction of street vendors from the area citing it to be a No Hawking, street vending zone as per an older scheme.

Street Vendors Act 2014 clearly states that it has an overriding effect on any such previous scheme and notification. It also says that all the existing street vendors need to be surveyed and provided Certificate of Vending by Town Vending Committee and till then no vendor should be evicted. It has not been done yet in the area which falls under the New Delhi Municipal Council ( NDMC) and still the vendors have been evicted and the police along with NDMC officials are making sure that no street vendor can return to their work place. In fact, as per an article in the Indian Express, many street vendors had to run during the eviction drive out of the fear of the police and left their belongings behind which were seized.

Street vendors of Connaught Circle are already in financial distress due to the Covid-19 pandemic and this festive season seemed like a hope for them but they have been removed during the peak season of their work crashing all their hopes on the basis of a petition by the New Delhi Trade Association where street vendors were not even a party to the case. It is clear that the current eviction drive is in violation of the Street Vendors Act, 2014.

More and more people from all walks of life have come out strongly in the support of Street Vendors of Connaught Place.

On 24th October 2021, more than 40 advocates and human rights activists came together with National Hawker Federation to discuss the recent challenges to Street Vendors Act 2014 in the pretext of judicial interventions against the act in Delhi. On 30th September 2021, while hearing petitions on street vendors and setting up a town vending committee (TVC) in various places in Delhi. The High Court passed daunting comments on the legal rights of street vendors in Delhi.

In truth Municipal bodies and civic authorities have used the court orders multiple times to evict vendors from their workplace in the last two years.

Human Rights activists feared that action taken against the street vendors are dangerous for the future of the informal workforce as street vendors are one of the largest workforces in the country.

It seems to be a high time to question the intent of the court orders and why is the central legislation not being appreciated to provide dignified status to street vendors.

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Vol. 54, No. 21, Nov 21 - 27, 2021