New Delhi, 7 June: Eminent lawyers representing Supreme Court and different High Courts, human rights commissions’ functionaries, civil liberty organizations representatives and labour & human rights activists on Thursday joined the National Consultation on Protecting Human Rights of Street Vendors organized by National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI) in Delhi to voice their serious concern over the growing incidence of street vendors’ human rights violation.
They demanded of the governments, municipal bodies and law enforcing agencies to ensure that the working poor’s human rights are protected at any cost as violations of their rights badly impact the internationally mandated right to social dignity in employment. Moreover, the violations create ruptures in governance and lead to social, economic and political divisions.
The consultation also declared Street Vendors’ Human Rights Charter. The charter calls upon the Government of India, State Governments and Union Territories Administrations to strictly abide by the constitutional provisions that make secured and dignified livelihood and social security the fundamental human rights.
The Charter demands of the government to honour its commitment made to various international bodies as well as international labour and human rights treaties , including Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, Prevention of Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 and Employment Policy Convention, 1964, that clearly state that right to social dignity in employment is a fundamental human right and any infringement upon it violates the principles of free and open competition in addition to individual rights to work and non- discrimination.
The charter calls upon the Government of India to make appropriate and adequate provisions in the proposed central law that it is making to protect and regulate the livelihood of street vendors. It also demands from the Union Home Ministry to write to the Director Generals of Police (DGPs) to instruct the Superintendents of Police / Police Commissioners to maintain zero tolerance over the cases of street vendors’ human rights violation.
The charter calls upon the National and State Human Rights Commissions, Courts, Bar Associations, Tribunals, Media and Civil Society to stand firm in support of protecting human rights of street vendors.
The consultation was joined among others by Justice A. K. Ganguly, former judge of the Supreme Court, Supreme Court lawyer Jayshree Satpute, E. S. Jose of Madras High Court, P.K. Ibrahim of Kerala High Court, Navkiran Singh of Punjab and Haryana High Court, Siddarth Sah of Uttarakhand High Court, Rajendra Soni of Jodhpur High Court,
Former police bureaucrat and currently the chairperson of Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights Amod Kanth, former judge of Patna High Court and currently a member of Bihar Human Rights Commission Rajendra Prasad, Jagdish Bhalla of Punjab Human Rights Commission, J. B. Koshy of Kerala Human Rights Commission, Professor in Law, Delhi University Kamala Shankaran and human rights activist of Punjab Kulwant Singh Nagra also joined the consultation and provided valuable inputs to develop effective strategies to protect human rights of street vendors.
The street vendors from different cities and towns who have had faced serious human rights violations and a group of family members of those street vendors who had to sacrifice their lives fighting against the atrocities of municipal authorities, police and mafias also participated in the consultation and shared their testimonies with the lawyers, human rights activists and human rights commissions functionaries. Those who shared their testimonies include Rekha Devi, Premsheela and Lalita of Patna, Md. Siraj of Bulandshahr, Babulal of Delhi, Ram Milan Gaur of Chandigarh, Shankar Das of Midnapore, Omprakash Devra of Jodhpur and Jaylal of Surat.
Earlier in the day, setting the perspective and agenda of the consultation, NASVI National Coordinator Arbind Singh said, “ensuring human rights of the working poor like street vendors is one of top markers of a live democracy. Unfortunately our democracy lacks in this capacity. The human rights violation destructs livelihood and make dignified earning and living a very painful struggle. “
He said, “Growing livelihood insecurity, atrocities of police-municipalities and attacks on human dignity are major cases/indicators of human rights violation. Street vendors face tremendous harassment and torture by municipal authorities and police personnel under the pretext of this or that incident of encroachment and security in almost all cities of India. The level of harassment is such that it undermines the fundamental right of the street vendors to carry on their businesses to earn a descent living.”.
“The Supreme Court of India has also time and again indicted the governments for trampling the human rights of street vendors. In October, 2010, the apex court ruled that the government must bring in effective law to protect the livelihood right of street vendors as existing policy has not ensured the protection of their basic right”, Mr. Singh added.
Asserting that the sustenance of livelihood with dignity is a major struggle for the street vendors, NASVI Coordinator said that several provisions of existing municipal laws and police acts do not recognize street Vending as legal entities and those provisions are used, as means of extortion and bribery by the thugs and muggers of police and municipal departments.
He said, “The consultation being organized intends to bring together the experts on human rights, eminent lawyers and social activists who can better guide us firming up the strategies to protect the human rights of street vendors and other sections of urban poor.