New Delhi, June 14 (UNI) Leaders of hawkers from all over the country who assembled here today sought a better deal for this community often looked down upon but one which fills the bellies of the common man, demanding elimination of non-hawking zones and amendments to the Police Act and Indian Penal Code.
The group was led by social activist Medha Patkar, who highlighted the pitiable plight of the hawkers and sought from the government enactment of a law to protect their livelihood and implementation of the National Policy on Urban Street Vendors by all States and municipalities.
Ms Patkar also spoke about the dehumanisation of the police force, saying that the bribe it takes from hawkers amounts to a staggering figure of Rs 700 crores annually.
Nearly two dozen hawkers leaders were present at the press conference, which was held under the aegis of National Hawkers Federation, headed by Ms Patkar and Mr Sharad Rao.
The National Policy on Urban Street Vendors calls for decriminalisation of street vending by amendment to the IPC and Police Act and all relevant State and Municipal Acts.
Ms Patkar gave a clarion call for protection of natural hawkers market and opposed the creation of non-hawking zones that evict the majority of hawkers and dislocate the rest to the peripheries of the cities.
Ms Patkar, who went on a fast several times risking her life to protect the rights of Sardar Sarovar dam, opposed the entry of corporates in retail trade on the grounds that they threaten the livelihood of hawkers and small businesses, as well as permitting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail.
''It is hijacking the businesses of the poor hawkers,'' Ms Patkar said.
The leader demanded a complete ban on all corporations selling fruits, vegetables, groceries and goods of daily consumption.
Ms Patkar demanded that no corporate store be allowed to operate within a radius of two kilometers of areas where there is high density of hawkers.
She took on the government for the backdoor entry of foreign corporates by permitting multi-brand retail by foreign corporates.
The leaders brought to the fore the fact that hawkers represent one the largest constituents of the unorganised sector, which comprise 93 per cent of the workforce and contributes to 65 per cent of the India's GDP.
The leaders demanded social security for hawkers, including pension, maternity and health benefits.
They said in view of the callous attitude of the government, especially the hawker community, a mass march would be organised to Parliament in its ensuing session.
The mass struggle will also bring into its fold slum dwellers, peasants and small traders.
UNI MP SG HS1708