Friday, October 7, 2016

Day after Delhi High Court order, street vendors face eviction drive, cry foul

With the festival season approaching, major markets in the city, including Lajpat Nagar, Sarojini Nagar, Karol Bagh, Jawalaheri (Paschim Vihar), Vasant Kunj and Rohini wore an empty look Thursday in the face of an eviction drive to remove street vendors.

Police and Municipal Corporations carried out the drive a day after the Delhi High Court allowed the government agencies to remove street vendors from designated ‘no-squatting zones’ identified before the Street Vendors Act 2014 was put into place.

The vendors, however, said government authorities “misled” the court, as the orders had spelled out that only the ‘no-squatting zones’ identified by the street vendors schemes would be cleared out. “There were no proper schemes before the Act was put in place. The government passed orders to make whichever area they wanted as a no-squatting zone without any public consultation,” said Kiran, president of the Lajpat Nagar Vendors’ Association.

From 11 am, police and MCD officials started moving the ‘rehri’ vendors from their spots. At Lajpat Nagar, vendors said police showed up just when the market is usually set up, and alleged that MCD officials came with trucks and confiscated their goods. A few alleged that they were threatened and beaten up as well.

“My brother was beaten up by police when he argued he would not let them take his bags,” said Mahender, who sells handbags with his brother.

Another street vendor, Tahira Begum, said police threatened to beat her when she refused to leave. “They took all my maal. I have five children to feed, what am I supposed to do now?”

According to National Association of Street Vendors in India (NASVI) programme director Arshad, around 500 vendors each were evicted from Lajpat Nagar Market and Sarojini Nagar Market, while the Ajmal Khan Road Market at Karol Bagh saw around 600 people being evicted. 

Around 80 vendors were evicted from markets around Chattarpur Metro Station, Vasant Kunj and Jwalaheri market in west Delhi. Eviction drives were also carried out in Dwarka and Rohini.

Jitendra Bahadur, a vendor at Lajpat Nagar Market, said, “This place was never a no-squatting zone. I have been selling goods here for over 35 years.” Fellow vendors alleged that a ‘no-squatting zone’ board was put up “just three to four months ago” after the issue reached the high court. 

Another vendor, Subir, said, “The government has not made a proper town vending committee (TVC) to identify the no-squatting and no-vending zones in the city. How can they start evicting us without any committee being made?”

The high court judgment had pulled up the government for not creating the TVCs, and directed that they must be implemented. With the eviction drive, vendors fear they will simply get tossed out.

“Who is going to be part of the TVC if they throw us all out? They are doing this so that the shopkeepers and police can place their own people as vendors and then charge rent from them,” said Kiran. While the vendors raised a hue and cry about the evictions in the morning, many returned to their spots by evening.

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