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Street Vendors

Street vendors form considerable part of Informal sector economy. There are close to 10 million street vendors in India. Roughly 2% of entire city population are street vendors. Vendors in India contribute greatly to the country’s savings and GDP. Despite tthis, street vending is part of the unregulated informal economy and is therefore criminalized by city officials, police officers, wholesalers, resident welfare associations, and many residents themselves.

Who are street vendors?
A street vendor1 is a person who offers goods or services for sale to the public without having a permanently built structure but with a temporary static structure or mobile stall (or head-load). Street vendors can be stationary and occupy space on the pavements or other public/private areas, or could be mobile, and move from place to place carrying their wares on push carts or in cycles or baskets on their heads, or could sell their wares in moving buses.
Key Facts about Street Vendors
The Study on Street Vending in Ten Cities in India, from SEWA Bharat’s street vendor affiliation, NASVI, revealed that:

  • 30 per cent of vendors are in the age group of 21-30 years and 51% in the age group of 31- 50 years. It also has higher percentage of older street vendors with 12% being in the age group of 61-80.
  • 40 % of street vendors are illiterate.
  • 71.5 % of vendors are stationary vendors.
  • 82% of vendors sell perishable goods. Fruit sellers constituted 29%.
  • 92.5% of the vendors reside within 5km,
  • 65.5% of vendors store their goods at home, whereas only 33.5% store them at their vending place. One per cent use rented space.
  • 65 % of vendors use their own saving for business activities.
  • 70.5% of the vendors spend between 8-12 hours plus two hours for cleaning and display.
  • 56 % of vendors live in the temporary (kuccha) houses. These are shelters with tin walls or walls constructed with discarded cardboard pieces. The roofs could be of temporary material such as tarpaulin or of a more permanent nature.
  • Around 60 to 70% of the vendors in all cities paid bribes to the authorities on a regular basis. The bribes ranged from Rs. 2 to Rs. 100 per day. the highest bribe was paid by vendors who sell shoes or clothes in the Sunday market at the Red Fort. Most vendors pay between Rs. 500 to 700 for the day.

SEWA Delhi street vendors

There are close to 300,000 street vendors in Delhi but the Municipal Corporation of Delhi official figure of “legal” vendors in roughly around 1,25,000, of which around 30% are women. The SEWA movement in Delhi began with women vegetable vendors in urban slums of Jahangirpuri, north Delhi, and then spread to Raghubhir Nagar, West Delhi. Now, there are around 6,000 street vendors in the SEWA Delhi union from across four of Delhi’s most deprived areas – Raghubhir Nagar, Sundarnagari, Seelampur, Jahangirpuri. SEWA Delhi has opened Delhi’s first Ladies Market and other women vendor members work in 3 of the cities major markets, Qutub Road Market, the Book Bazaar, and the Vellodrome Market.

Key achievements

  • Passing of Street Vendors Bill in 2014 after dedicated and collaborative advocacy efforts
  • SEWA Delhi women vendors present in 4 major markets in Delhi
  • Victory in ‘Gainda Ram and others vs. MCD and others’ case in 2006
  • Reinstatement of the Vellodrome market in 2010
  • Victory in court case to prevent displacement of Qutub Road Market

Key activities

Organizing women street vendors

Unionizing of women street vendors is dismal compared to men street vendors. In Delhi, only 10-15 % of women street vendors are part of trade unions and women vendors are underrepresented in executive committee’s of bigger trade unions.

SEWA Delhi has organized 6,000 street vendors in Delhi. This involves bringing all SEWA members together and strengthening their union to increase their bargaining powers with the Government/municipal authorities. SEWA helps vendors develop leaders and empowers them so that they can advocate for the rights of their community.

Advocacy, government liaising, and policy intervention

SEWA Delhi aims to bring legal recognition, rights, and respect to women street vendors across the city and throughout India. SEWA Delhi interacts with the MCD, liaises with the police, advocates through the court and appellate authorities and the media.

Advocacy strategies
  • Interacting with the MCD to ensure that the MCD implements the National Policy in a fair and transparent manner. SEWA Delhi is a member of the Zonal Vending Committees (ZVCs) of the City Zone and the SP Zone and of the Ward Vending Committee of the Shahdara Zone where it represents the women vendors and raises their issues. It also ensures the participation of the vendors in the process of the implementation of the National Policy. SEWA Delhi is also member to a high-level committee that has been set up by the MCD Commissioner to address issues such as vending zones and licenses.
  • Liaising with the police to, to ensure women vendors are not harassed, and to ensure the police do not remove their markets.
  • Advocacy through the Court and appellate authorities. While the National Policy was being implemented in Delhi, SEWA realized that the process followed by the MCD is not fair and transparent. The aim of the National Policy is to protect the livelihood of vendors and provide them space to vend with dignity, which was not happening. On behalf of it’s members, SEWA filed an intervening application in the Supreme Court in the ‘Gainda Ram and others vs. MCD and others’ case.
  • Advocacy through the media. SEWA Delhi constantly tries to take support of the media, both print and electronic, to highlight the issues of the vendors and gain visibility for them.
  • Right To Information (RTI). SEWA filed an RTI demanding information on the chairpersons of ZVC in all the 12 zones of the MCD. The 2007 scheme of MCD for squatters/hawkers provides for the ZVC in all the zones, to be presided over by a judicial officer of a rank not less than that of an additional district judge. In reality, all 12 zones in Delhi were headed by the Deputy Commissioner (DC) of the MCD. SEWA received a reply, informing that Rekha Rani is the presiding officer of all the ZVCs of the 12 zones of the MCD, and to whom all complaints will be addressed once the database gets completed.
Key advocacy achievements
  • Passing of Street Vendors Bill in February 2014
  • Victory in ‘Gainda Ram and others vs. MCD and others’ case
    In 2006, SEWA members intervened in the ‘Gainda Ram and others vs. MCD and others’
    case before the Supreme Court where the Court directed the MCD and the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) to draft schemes keeping in mind the National Policy on Urban Street Vendors 2004.
  • Victory in court case to prevent displacement of Qutub Road Market

SEWA Delhi markets

qutub-marketSEWA Delhi women members are active in famous street markets around the city. SEWA Delhi has also established its own ladies’ market as a response to the needs and demands of women street vendor members. At each market SEWA Delhi ensures that women street vendors are protected.

Reinstatement of the Vellodrome market
reinstatementIn 2010 at the time of the common wealth games, an illegal market emerged in Subhash Park, near Jama Masjid, threatening a history market on Vellodrome road by capturing important customer flow. On behalf of street vendor members, SEWA Delhi engaged with the local police and the office of the Lt. Governor of Delhi. SEWA Delhi helped strengthen the Vellodrome market by improving its cleanliness, proving the legitimacy of vendors, and stopping unauthorized payment. Now the Vellodrome market is fully functioning and 150 SEWA women vendors work there.
SEWA Delhi Ladies Market
Women street vendors face harassment by local male vendors and police authorities. There are often no gender-sensitive toilet facilities, thus increasing the likelihood that women will suffer from abuse. After a struggle of four years, SEWA Delhi street vendors established India’s first-ever ladies’ market (Mahila Bazaar) at Tagore Road in 2009, where over 200 women vendors from different parts of Delhi vend with dignity, without facing any harassment. SEWA Delhi had put the idea of a ladies’ market before the Honorable Supreme court and received great support. SEWA Delhi got permission to organise an all ladies market from MCD in 2008. The vendors pay weekly fees and the continuous rent enables the MCD to earn revenue.

Opening the Ladies’ Market

  • Mobilising women vendors: 200 women vendors have been organised to sell their goods in the market. These members are also paying the vending fees and have been issued SEWA identity cards. Home visits and market visits are undertaken to monitor the sale process and to ensure that market functional well.
  • Diversify the articles sold in the market: Members sell old shoes and clothes and handicraft items.
  • Liaising with government departments: Meetings and follows –up have been conducted with Municipal Corporation of Delhi for permissions. Further, meetings have been held with Police department and traffic control authority for no objection certificates
  • Publicize the market: widespread publicity of the market has been undertaken through banner, pamphlets distribution, word of mouth, and media coverage. Contacts were made with students of Delhi University, Embassy, tourism department, Resident welfare Associations.
  • Beautify the allotted site: SEWA worked together with architect to beautify the market. It has also made arrangements for drinking water and toilets for the vendors. After constant pursuing, the MCD has reconstructed the roads that they dug up for the sewer connections on the roads in the market area.
Qutub Road Market
This market was declared a non-hawking and non-squatting area in 2006. However, the vendors were still able to vend their goods here every week as the police was allowing them to come to the market. In 2009, the police undertook an eviction drive, which led to the expulsion of the vendors from Qutub Road. SEWA Delhi filed a case in the appellate tribunal, the ZVC. SEWA brought to the notice of the Court the latest circular of the MCD, along with the list of 268 weekly markets in Delhi, which included the Qutub Road market, based on which the Court had reserved the matter for a final order.

Meanwhile the vendor members of SEWA met the District Commissioner of Police (DCP), North District to apprise them of the order of the court. , SEWA ensured that every Sunday market is functioning properly. The Station House Officer (SHO), Sadar Thana was roped in to maintain the traffic movement. The total number of members in this market is around 600 and, on an average, the sale value of each member is Rs. 2,000 per day. The turnover of the market in 2012 was Rs. 5,76,00,000; the annual tax paid from the market to the Government was Rs. 4,32,000.

Book Bazaar
Delhi has a tradition of weekly markets, which are usually held at empty places or in a regular marketplace on a day when the market is closed. One such extremely popular market is the Daryaganj Book Bazaar that has been in existence for over 40 years. It has a varied clientele including students, journalists, academicians, tourists and so on. In 2004, this market was displaced by the MCD. To protect their livelihood, Book bazaar vendors joined SEWA and started lobbying for their market. They lodged a case in the Supreme Court and were successful in getting their market reinstated.

In 2011, again the police did not allow the market to function, giving reasons of traffic congestion and theft. The next day, SEWA went to meet the DC to discuss the matter but he was unavailable. They later met the Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) who, after some arguments, said the market would resume. Besides taking up the cause of these vendors to the higher authorities, SEWA also guides the market committee for its smooth functioning. Now, the MCD is taking teh bazari (fees) from the vendors every week and the market is running smoothly. It has some 200 members, each earning around Rs. 1,500 per Sunday. In 2012, the turnover from this market was Rs. 14,400,000; the average annual income of one member is Rs. 78,000.

Networks and partnerships

SEWA Delhi has been networking with key government stakeholders such as the MCD and the PWD, alongside other organizations such as the National Association of Street Vendors, India (NASVI) in order to ensure sustainable policy developments for street vendors.


13 Year Annual Report Annual Report