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Helping India's micro-entrepreneurs

June 19, 2009 18:21 IST

Helping India's micro-entrepreneurs

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They may be selling bananas, pav bhaji, cosmetics, cigarettes or just about anything else either on a pushcart going round streets or simply by standing at the roadside. Now, these street vendors are all set to get a new designation -- micro-entrepreneurs.

The National Policy on Urban Street Vendors, 2009, approved by the UPA government, recognises street vendors (or micro-entrepreneurs) as an integral and legitimate part of the urban retail trade and distribution system.


Image: A vendor arranges vegetables at a market in Siliguri, West Bengal
Photographs: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters
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"We have drafted the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2009, and forwarded it to the state governments for enacting local legislations to provide for protection of livelihood of urban street vendors and to regulate street vending," said Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Secretary Kiran Dhingra.

Terming them as micro-entrepreneurs, the HUPA ministry maintains it is the duty of the state governments to protect the rights of street vendors to earn an honest living.


Image: A vendor sells paper windmills at a beach in Mumbai.
Photographs: Jayanta Shaw/Reuters
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The ministry has initiated steps asking state governments to enact legislation for regulating street vending in tune with the national policy.

The National Policy on Urban Street Vendors 2009 has been conceived as part of a major national initiative towards alleviation of poverty in urban areas.

Street vendors provide valuable services to the urban masses while eking out a living through their own enterprise, limited resources and labour, the policy says.

"Our aim is to help the street vendors so that they are protected from being exploited," said Dhingra, adding "the state authorities should execute the policy."


Image: A vendor arranges woollen garments at a street market in Agartala, Tripura.
Photographs: Jayanta Dey/Reuters
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While street vending is increasingly seen as a major menace in urban areas compounding the traffic problems, the national policy aims at giving street vendors a legal status and providing legitimate vending and hawking zones in city and town master-plans or development plans.

Each street vendor will be registered under the aegis of a town vending committee, headed by the respective municipal commissioner, and given an identity card with a code number and category.


Image: Roadside vendors unload plastic pitchers for sale from a vehicle on the outskirts of Hyderabad.
Photographs: Krishnendu Halder/Reuters
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It is estimated that, in many cities, street vendors account for about two per cent of the population. Women constitute a large segment of these street vendors in almost every city.

According to the policy, the spatial planning for earmarking vending zones will be done through photographic digitalised surveys of street vendors and their locations. A comprehensive digitalised photo census, survey or GIS mapping of the existing stationary vendors will also be undertaken for granting the lease.

However, each street vendor will be allowed to carry out his business at a designated place only for a period of 20 years.


Image: A vendor applies henna designs on the hand of a Kashmiri girl in Srinagar.
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters
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Other important initiatives under the 2009 policy include providing access to credit, skill development, housing, social security and capacity building for street vendors.

Street vendors, being micro entrepreneurs, should be provided with vocational education and training and entrepreneurial development skills to upgrade their technical and business potential so as to increase their income levels as well as to look for more remunerative alternatives, the policy says.


Image: A street vendor walks with plastic balls at a fair ground in New Delhi.
Photographs: Kamal Kishore/Reuters
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