First-ever legislation for street vendors in ICT to help protect their rights

ISLAMABAD: The first-ever legislative bill for street vendors would serve as impetus to safeguard their rights, recognize their contributions towards society, provide them incentives and a mechanism for redressal of their grievances.

The draft of the bill was being prepared with the efforts of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), Center of Street Economy (CSE) and Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Division.

Street vendors have remained an integral part of the urban economy around the world as they provide a range of goods and services to middle- and low-income mass segments of the society.

However, in Pakistan, the potential of street vending has not been harnessed and despite the existence of the policy developed in 1986 for Islamabad Capital Territory and subsequent convening of special committee in 2015 and 2017 for the Municipal Corporation of Islamabad, significant work has not been done in this regards.

The existing street vending framework talks about responsibilities and penalties applicable due to violations but a comprehensive framework that includes rights, privileges and entitlements of street vendors has not been set out in line with the much-needed safeguards.

Talking to APP, Executive Director, CSE, Zia Bandey said the work on street vendor legislation has been started in the year 2019 in coordination with PIDE but suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The draft of the bill has been prepared and a webinar on this topic has been conducted this month. Initially, the legislation was meant for the street vendors of Islamabad Capital Territory, which could be replicated by the provincial governments in future.

The law would basically explain the discretionary powers of different authorities and introduce the novel concept of town vending committees with having 50 percent representation of vendors which will be led by municipal authorities.

According to a rough estimate, the capital has around 30,000 street vendors who will be identified by the Town Vending Committees through a survey, registered and issued vending certificates with designating an area for them.

He said street vendors, operating in an uneven equation presently, would be organized and they would have their associations which will play a role of bridge between them and the government.

He was of the view that the importance of street vendors cannot be overlooked and if they don’t exist, all the people of the city will move towards markets which would overburden the transport infrastructure.

These vendors face exploitation at the hands of different authorities and cannot raise their voice at any platform and remain unable to gather support from any section, he said.

Zia Bandey said street vendors do not only exist in Pakistan but the whole world and face various problems.

He said that the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister, Dr Sania Nishtar has expressed her keenness in gathering these vendors at a platform to protect their rights, saying, that Ehsaas has the same mandate.

“We have received bi-partisan support on this legislation as this is the issue of the poor people and not involve any politics”, he opined.

According to the draft of the proposed street vending legislation, Town Vending Committees will be formed by the Metropolitan Corporation for different zones comprising over representatives of street vendors’ associations, traders associations, non-governmental organizations and community based organizations operating in the area, persons nominated by the local government, Capital Development Authority and the Office of Inspector General Police.

The Town Vending Committee shall conduct the first survey of street vendors in the area falling in its jurisdiction within a period of one year from the date of commencement of this Act and thereafter a survey of street vendors shall be conducted once in every five years. - APP �