The Street Vendors Bill may have brought hawkers hopes of relief from harassment by civic authorities and police, but there are others waiting to trouble them.
With the bill being passed in Lok Sabha and the Supreme Court ordering state governments to use it as guidelines to start the process of registering vendors, vendors are now being duped into buying photocopies of the court order for anywhere between Rs 2,000 and Rs 5,000.
As vendors do not have much understanding about the implications of the bill, some middlemen have grabbed the opportunity to make money.
Ram Lal, 45, sells fruit from a cart in Karol Bagh market. Half of his monthly earnings go in paying the rent of his two-room apartment. He also has to spend on medicines for his elder son and his younger son’s school fee.
His elder son, who is nine years old, is mentally challenged and has to be taken regularly to Kasturba Niketan Hospital in Lajpat Nagar for treatment. But this month Ram Lal could not take him there.
He spent the money, otherwise meant for his son’s medication, on buying a photocopy of the September 9 Supreme Court order. He says he was duped by a dalal (middleman) in the market into buying it for Rs 3,000.
Surprisingly, these middlemen appear to be working hand in glove with some influential, well-off vendors.
“There are some dalals operating in the market who work as agents of the network of shop owners and well-off vendors, “ says Ram Lal. Illiterate people like him rely on them for updates on the bill, he adds.
“And this time, one of them made me buy the copy of the order, saying it has my name and details. He told me I have to buy it as it will serve as proof. Without this I may not get the benefits under the bill,” says Ram Lal.
Like him, there are hundreds of other vendors and hawkers in the market who have been cheated of thousands of rupees by these middlemen.
Indu Kumari, a mother of two, is a vegetable vendor at the market. “I was forced to buy the photocopy of the order. The dalal told me that if I don’t buy it, I won’t be saved from the municipal authorities and police, and they will continue to harass me,” she says.
The extent to which the vendors are being misled can be gauged by the fact that when Deccan Herald told Ram Lal that the apex court order’s photocopy doesn’t have his, or for that matter, anyone's name, he didn't believe it. It took some effort to make him realise that he had been misled.
“I paid such a big price and due to this I could not get my son’s medicines this month. I earn between Rs 8,000 and Rs 10,000 every month. Police squeeze out Rs 1,000 per month as hafta. I have to pay Rs 4,500 as the rent and Rs 500 as my younger son’s monthly school fee. What am I left with to feed myself for a month?” he says.
According to National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI), it has become the story of every market across the capital.
“Even in Sarojini market where there are over 1,500 vendors, they have been cheated of thousands of rupees to buy photocopies of the apex court order. We are now going to markets across the city distributing free copies of the verdict,” says Anuradha Singh, programme manager at NASVI.
According to a senior high court lawyer, selling of a court order is illegal. “If someone wants to buy a hard copy of the Supreme Court order, the person has to fill a form stating the reason. One has to pay Rs 5 per page and Rs 100 certification fee. The sale of the certified court order copy is prohibited,” he says.