The History of the Sewa Nagar Pilot Project

Criminal Mafias Sabotage Model Market for Street Vendors

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As per the Ministry of Urban Development, nearly 10 million persons earn their livelihood in India from street vending. It is estimated that 2.5% of the urban population is engaged in street vending. Accordingly, Delhi alone uses the services of at least 4,50,000 street vendors. But less than 3000 persons (less than 1%) have managed to secure vending licenses from the MCD and that too after prolonged legal battles in the High Court and the Supreme Court of Delhi. The situation is no different in other urban centres of India. The illegal status of vendors makes them easy targets of extortionist mafias. In Delhi alone, vendors end up suffering an income loss of at least Rs 500 crores per year by way of bribes and confiscation of goods while being routinely subjected to systematic blackmail, terror and human rights abuses.

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Street Vendors (Livelihood) Protection Authority

Plan of Action Submitted to MCD Special Committee for Reforming Vendor Policy

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Street vendors in India provide a vital link between the producer and the consumer, connecting the two in highly innovative, cost efficient ways– keeping in view regional specificities as well as varied requirements of people during different seasons, festivals as well as time of the day or night. As per the National Policy for Street Vendors, nearly 2.5% of urban population is involved in street vending and hawking. This means this occupation provides livelihood to nearly one crore persons in India. With an average of four dependents per vendor, the survival of five crore people is dependent on street trading. Calculated at an average daily turnover of Rs 1100 per day per vendor, the total turnover of one crore street vendors in India would be a whopping Rs 1100 crores per day.

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MANUSHI in Witness Box

Special Court set up For Hearing Complaints of Rickshaw Owners and Pullers

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The experience of being subject to intense cross examination in the witness box for last several days in the Special Court set up by the High Court to hear individual complaints of rickshaw owners as well as testimonies of Manushi volunteers/staff has been both stressful as well as hilarious. Court scenes in Bollywood films are so much more interesting. By contrast, real courts are soul destroying.

Court procedures, language, modes of argument and fact finding remain ridiculously antiquated. It is as though we have taken a dharmic vow to stay loyal subjects of the British empire of Victorian vintage. Sometimes I wish we should invite the British back to come back for some years and update governance practices and dismantle colonial minded kaws in order to help us meet with challenges of today’s India.

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To Members of Task Force on Traffic Issues in Delhi

768626399Untitled-1 copyDear All,

You are well aware that this particular Task Force was constituted at the orders of the Delhi High Court with the specific purpose of working out a new policy that treats Non Motorized Vehicles (NMVs) as an integral part of road traffic in Delhi.  This order came in response to a petition filed by Manushi on 15th June 2007.  However, certain members have managed to completely side line the NMV issue and the need to create dedicated NMV tracks as mandated in the Delhi Master Plan 2021.  In fact, the entire energy of the Task Force is going into car parking policy with an emphasis on enhancing car parking fee and punitive measures for parking cars in “non-authorized” areas.

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Public Interest Litigation

One Step Forward, Two Steps Backwards

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With the introduction of the concept of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the late 1970s direct access for citizens was provided to the High Courts as well as the Supreme Court. Progressive judges such as Justice P.N.Bhagwati began to actively encourage social and political activists to bring instances of injustice to exploited groups and vulnerable individuals directly to the notice of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court had even ruled that letters to it could be treated as petitions. Poor prisoners, inmates of Nariniketans, marginalised tribals, bonded labourers and similar groups whose voices had never reached the citadels of power began to get a hearing in the highest court in the land through social workers and political activists who brought their cases from remote regions to the country’s apex court. For a brief period it appeared that one didn’t need to hire expensive lawyers or follow long cumbersome procedures to get the voice of the poor heard in the Supreme Court. A few sympathetic judges even made allowances for the activists who tried to plead the cases directly without the mediation of lawyers. However, what was most encouraging was that there was no difficulty in getting some of the best lawyers to take on these cases gratis or for only a nominal fee.

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Politics Triumphs over Justice

Supreme Court Judgement on Tribal Women’s Land Rights

1698719535New ImageWe reproduce below the text of the Supreme Court judgement in a case filed in August 1982 by Madhu Kishwar and Ho tribal woman Maki Bui challenging the denial of land rights to tribal women.

Click here for judgement

Claiming Land Rights for Women

Lessons Learnt from two Different Endeavours to Help Women Claim Share of Family Land

15036967591954817453Untitled-1.psdA chance encounter with a 55-year-old Ho tribal woman in Lonjo village, Jharkhand, was a life transforming experience for me. In 1981, Jharkhand, then part of Bihar, was witnessing a tribal movement to reclaim forest rights. A reign of terror was unleashed with mass arrests and rapes of women by the police and paramilitary forces. Around this time, a group of activists had invited me to document atrocities against women as part of an all-women team.

After intensively working with victims of domestic violence in Delhi, we at Manushi came to the conclusion that the fragile and uncertain rights of women in their parental property make them easy targets of violence. Even within communities where women are the economic mainstay of the family and run farm operations and the village economy without much help from men, women find it difficult to hold on to landed property if they have no men in the family – sons, brothers or husband — to bolster their claim.

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