In February 2001 I was appointed planning consultant by a group of over 350 hawkers to assist their efforts to secure implementation of statutory Master Plan provisions for space for hawkers in markets, etc. In mid-2001 our simple but well-progressing efforts were derailed in a rude encounter with a high-profile policy dialogue precipitated by premier NGOs and engaging the highest levels in government and premised on the assumption that Master Plan provisions for hawkers did not exist!

As the twin tales of our efforts in support of the Master Plan and the policy dialogue that undermined it progressed, I found myself in a rare – even privileged – position as a planner and chronicler. I could chronicle as well as engage with two diametrically different perspectives on the same issue at two different levels. That all this was happening while the Master Plan was being revised also opened up opportunities for ‘tinkering’ with the unfolding script for a happy ending.

The chronicling I have done quite diligently. In October 2001 I put together a film and offered it to people in my government who were engaging on the issue. In February 2002 I put together a comprehensive document on both tales and offered that as well. In March 2002 I put together a power-point presentation based on it and offered that as well. My offers were made with the request to ‘write a happy ending’. Very few responded to the offer. None responded to the request.

By now, there are a dozen agencies of government intervening on the hawking issue – with no reference to the Master Plan. It does appear that not only will our local efforts not bear fruit, but also that downsizing of statutory provisions for hawkers is imminent in the on-going Master Plan review.

I would still like to believe that a lot of what is going on is a misunderstanding arising out of the fact that those engaging on the matter are seeing it only in parts. Therefore, from my continuing chronicle of the ‘whole’ I place on offer now an 8-page paper in six parts. The first four parts outline the 1990 Master Plan provisions, the development of the policy dialogue of 2001, its content, and implications of it disregarding statutory provisions. These are abstracted from the first half of my larger document of February 2002. The fifth part of the paper is an update, which along with the fourth and sixth explicates the whole into which separate initiatives of a full dozen agencies of government fit.

I offer this (in pursuit, again, of a happy ending) to MoUD, DDA, NCRPB, HUDCO/HSMI, SPA, DUAC / CoA, DMRC, MCD, Delhi Police, LG Office and PMO, all of whom have engaged on the hawking issue over the last year without reference to statutory Master Plan provisions for hawkers. I offer this, as my earlier offers, not as a ‘representation’ but from the common ground where the statutory Master Plan forms the source of my professional and their statutory/constitutional responsibility.

I am also sending it for views and suggestions to a few other people in and out of government who, I believe, are concerned about planned development and citizens’ entitlements in its benefits.

Delhi Master Plan Provisions for Hawkers – Approved by Parliament, 1990

In 1990 Parliament approved the revised Master Plan for Delhi, perhaps the first Plan to have explicit provisions for hawkers by way of detailed norms for space for them. The Master Plan as originally promulgated in 1962 did not have provisions for informal sector. But its clear thrust on equitable benefits of planned development for all suggests that this might have been only because the concept of informal sector was developed only in the ‘70s. Plan review studies in the ‘80s included census and surveys of hawkers. Based on these, the revised Plan acknowledges importance of hawking as a source of livelihood for the poor, contribution of hawkers to society and economy, problems of exploitation and limitations of licensing and goes on to spell out detailed norms for hawking space.

Master Plan provisions for hawkers are significant because hawking, on account of the performance-nuisance conflict inherent to it, calls for spatial planning intervention. Licensing systems are sighted on the nuisance dimension of hawking. Typical initiatives ‘on behalf of’ hawkers, on the other hand, overplay performance. On its own neither perspective can provide durable solutions. Only with sufficient planned space for hawkers to hawk without creating nuisance for others can it become possible to ‘legalize’ hawkers so that they are not exploited. Master Plan provisions to create space for 3-4 lakh hawkers in Delhi thus provided a way to conflict-free urban hawking, statutory in Delhi and, by virtue of the Plan being approved by Parliament, equivalent of national guideline since 1990.1

It is against this backdrop that the ‘policy dialogue’ on hawking starting 2001, precipitated by premier NGOs, engaging highest levels in government, and making no reference to statutory provisions, needs to be understood. Coincident unsuccessful efforts of over 350 hawkers, with a duly appointed planner consultant, to seek implementation of Master Plan provisions provide additional insights.

Policy Dialogue on Hawkers – Delhi, 2001

On April 27-28, 2001 Manushi2(described as ‘journal about women and society’ on its web site and as ‘high profile NGO’ by Prime Minister’s Office – PMO) organised a “dialogue of rickshaw pullers and vendors with select policy makers.” On June 16 Manushi submitted “a brief report” to Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC), who “promptly sent off letters” to Chief Minister and others. Manushi organised two Lok Sunwayis, attended by ‘eminent citizens’ and widely reported in the media. In August 2001 PMO came out with PM’s “new policy for street hawkers and rickshaw pullers in Delhi”. The policy, based on press articles, Manushi study and CVC’s letter, outlined an “alternative regulatory regime” based on dividing the city into green (free access), amber (fee-based access) and red (prohibited access) zones. On August 23 the PM wrote to Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor (LG).

Meanwhile, on May 29-30 Ministry for Urban Development (MoUD) and Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)3 had “joined hands” to organize a National Policy Dialogue on hawkers. “Ministry officials, Secretaries of State Governments, Municipal Commissioners, Members of the Judiciary, academics and vendors …deliberated …to find proper and lasting solutions”. Around the time the PMO announced its policy for Delhi, Union Minister of State announced in his state’s capital that Central government, through “Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad… will launch a pilot project …to provide loans… up to Rs 50,000 per vendor… NGOs will play a crucial role”. In October in Tiruchirapalli organiser of SEWA-initiated National Alliance of Street Vendors India (NASVI) told the press that “a 19-member task force under the leadership of Union minister of state… discussed… issuing of identity cards to street vendors and promoting credit/micro finance for them”.

In continuation of PMO initiative, on August 30 LG held talks with Delhi government and Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) “to acquaint himself with issues”. On September 7, a “high-level meeting” presided over by LG “discussed modalities of reform”. After another such meeting on September 10 MCD announced a scheme of two ‘haats’ in each of its twelve municipal zones to accommodate a total of 80,000 hawkers. In these hawkers would be permitted on first-come-first-served basis to hawk from 6 feet by 6 feet spaces from 9 AM to 6 PM four days a week against a payment of Rs.20 per day.

In continuation of MoUD/SEWA workshop, MoUD wrote to state governments (including, presumably, Delhi Government) and was otherwise engaging on the issue through its schemes and institutions. Under Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojna, which had so far not covered hawkers, it commissioned School of Planning and Architecture (SPA) to carry out a study in Delhi. Its undertaking, Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO), with no history of intervention in hawking, co-sponsored a National Seminar, etc. In February 2002 at the second meeting of the MoUD/SEWA task force, a committee was constituted under chairmanship of HUDCO Chairman to draft a national hawker policy.

Meanwhile, ‘haats’ remained a non-starter. Either the hawkers did not find them attractive or others resisted them. Manushi objected vehemently to ‘sabotage’ and wrote to PM and to LG and organised a protest rally. By end of 2001 ithad concluded that the PM policy it had precipitated had reduced to a kagaz ka tukda [piece of paper]. It was painting around some 150 hawkers in one cluster green lines called Sayam Rekhas [control lines] and arranging for hawkers Jhadu Puja [broom worship]. Hawkers were paying Rs.500 each so Manushi could help them help themselves “develop the place into a model market” by improving the pavement, leveling area around taps, etc, with help of two architects.

Content of the 2001 Policy Dialogue on Hawkers

The following paragraphs summarise the concerns implicit in the policy suggestions / demands put forth in 2001 in terms of overall ‘problem-perspective’ and emergent ‘solution scenario’. Mentioned alongside are Master Plan provisions approved in 1990, which already and adequately address these.

‘Problem Perspective

Broadly, the 2001 initiatives view the ‘problem’ in terms of three linked dimensions. One, hawking is a large and significant sector. SEWA estimates one crore hawkers in the country, though the basis of its estimate is not clear. Manushi’s figure of 5-6 lakh hawkers in Delhi is also inconsistent with estimates of Planning Commission (3 lakhs) and SEWA/NASVI (2 lakhs). But there is consensus that hawkers constitute a largish sector and on significance of cheap/convenient supply of goods/services by them. PMO notes “their presence reduces scope for eve-teasing and by reducing transportation requirements…contributes to reduced pollution”. MoUD/SEWA note hawkers are “part of Indian urban culture of public spaces”. They highlight the fact that hawkers create own employment. PMO says thus they “enhance societal welfare” and must be encouraged as a matter of policy and hawking is “among the easiest occupations to enter for the urban poor”. Although 2001 initiatives suggest that scale/significance of hawking have been noted at policy level for the first time, Delhi Master Plan provisions for hawkers approved in 1990 have the same premise. In respect to scale, the Plan notes:

“informal sector is part of rapid urbanisation experienced by all the developing countries… 1981... about 1,39,000 informal sector units… defined with those working without a roof, including small khokha on roadside… Considering the stage of development of the country and the economic level of the migrants for the next two decades we may assume that the informal sector would continue” (p.120).

In respect to significance, the Plan notes:

“informal sector… with highly reduced needs of equipment and buildings is important as a source of employment and also for the economic functioning of the city” (p.17); and

“This sector though with lower productivity needs full consideration as it provides the much needed employment to the unskilled and semi-skilled. The persons working in the informal sector mostly belong to economically weaker section and low income group, thus it is of utmost importance that economic development of this sector is integrated in the physical planning process” (p.120).

It also says that hawking, if properly integrated into the city, would:

“create lively shopping areas” (p.13) and “add to the city scape and would be bringing in a lot of richness and experience of the city in a developing country” (p.18).

Two, hawkers face problems of harassment / extortion. At MoUD/SEWA workshop senior officials admitted to hawkers’ harassment by public servants. The study commissioned by MoUD to SPA has as a ‘study objective’ “protecting hawkers from unauthorised harassment”. Manushi’s film “provides a graphic account of economic assaults on street vendors“. PMO acknowledges “destruction or misappropriation of the hawkers wares” by police and municipal functionaries. Speakers at MoUD/SEWA workshop volunteered extortion estimates. Manushi, likewise, estimates that hawkers in Delhi pay Rs.50 crores per month in extortion payments, for which PMO says, “the figure is not beyond credibility”. It is noteworthy that Delhi Master Plan (1990) also notes hawkers’ exploitation:

“provision of informal sector trade units should be ensured so …the poor …are not exploited” (p.18).

Three, the ‘disconnect’ between, on one hand, scale/significance of hawkers and, on the other, their problematic circumstances is rooted in restrictive licensing and exclusionary planning. A comprehensive critique of restrictive licensing is made by PMO, which says licensing provisions seek to limit numbers, impose restrictive conditions that do not relate to general convenience of public, and give officials wide discretion, which is open to misuse. MoUD/SEWA note that current licensing practices achieve ‘removal’ rather than ‘regulation’ and number of licenses is only a fraction of the number of hawkers. It is noteworthy that licensing limitations are noted in the Master Plan in 1990:

“MCD is charging a certain fee termed as teh-bazari for continued use of particular space by such units. However, a large number of units are either mobile or not covered under teh-bazari” (p.17).

LG’s scheme of ‘haats’ was premised on the assumption of no other provisions for hawking space (though LG is ex-officio Chairman of DDA, custodian of Master Plan). MoUD/SEWA are very critical of exclusionary planning (though MoUD is parent ministry of DDA and also directly concerned with the Plan). Quite shockingly, even the study commissioned to SPA, premier school of Planning located in Delhi and routinely associated with the city’s Master Planning, is also premised on the same.

‘Solution Scenario’

In respect of scale/significance, the 2001 suggestions are trivial. MoUD/SEWA suggest surveys to determine numbers while PMO suggests registration with no numerical limits, which would render surveys redundant. The onus of positioning consensus on significance in public psyche is left on hawkers. At the workshop, Joint Secretary, MoUD said, “Carve a niche for yourself… make yourself indispensable by giving quality service at cheap rates.” The onus of ameliorating problems due to hawking is also left on hawkers. One of the MoUD/SEWA ‘Next Steps’ is “promote education of member street vendors about self-regulation”. At the workshop Joint Secretary highlighted “need to sensitize” hawkers on “cleanliness, crime, law and order, traffic control, payment of tax and protection of public interest”. Minister suggested hawkers “be properly educated and disciplined”. Minister of State “advised them not to break laws”. PMO also suggests a fee-based ‘self-regulating’ solution to problems of congestion. Manushi, too, was drawing ‘sayam rekhas’. Master Plan provisions, by creating planned space, address problems due to hawking far more sensibly than ‘self-regulation’. The figure of 3 to 4 lakh hawkers that they provide for compares well with estimates in Delhi. It is also noteworthy that Master Plan norms based on consumer population are rooted in economic viability, which seems better than the approach of limitlessly ‘encouraging’ hawking, implicit in the 2001 ideas.4

There is little in the solutions suggested/demanded in 2001 to deal with problems faced by hawkers. PMO does call for “absolute prohibition” on impounding or destruction of goods. But this has not happened. PMO posits extortion is an outcome of restrictive licensing. Despite intervention of CVC, it does not refer to corruption. Instead, it assumes that an alternative regime will be abuse-free, an assumption belied by reports of extortion after it was announced. MoUD/SEWA also do not address corruption. Workshop speakers advised hawkers to deal with it themselves. Minister of State “requested them not to give bribe…as it breeds corruption”. Former Chief Justice said hawkers “should be trained and disciplined so they can fight…exploitation by civic authorities”. Minister hoped through NASVI problems confronting them will be solved. Even Joint Commissioner of Police spoke not of police reform but of Delhi Police and SEWA together giving identity cards to hawkers. It is noteworthy that in respect of problems of harassment/extortion the Master Plan offers a better deal to hawkers than do-it-yourself-with-help-of-NGOs policy suggestions. Problems faced by hawkers are largely rooted in their locations being unplanned and potentially problematic for others (and hence ‘illegal’ under laws meant to protect public convenience). Once hawkers are in locations that are planned, the very basis of harassment disappears. Legal status in unplanned locations is of less value, as even license holding hawkers are evicted if perceived as being problematic.

Suggestions/demands of 2001 say a lot on ‘restrictive licensing and exclusionary planning’. In respect of licensing, PMO calls for dismantling, whereas MoUD/SEWA suggest expanding coverage. Strategic concerns underlying these seemingly divergent approaches are substantively same – legal recognition (through licenses or IDs) and use of regulation for revenue generation (through license fee or fee for amber zones). These ideas miss the point that the salient problem with hawking licensing is municipal agencies’ inability to find enough hawking spaces that do not pose a nuisance to others. In this respect, the Master Plan of 1990, unlike the 2001 ideas that scratch the surface, offers a solution that strikes at the root of the problem. The ‘implementation experience’ of haats clearly demonstrates the impracticability of ‘alternatives’ to integrally planned hawking spaces. Adequate ‘green’ areas simply cannot be found unless they are planned for. And, even in theory, ‘amber’ without ‘green’ can be ‘self-regulating’ only at very high fees. Indeed, PMO ‘alternative’ could work if combined with Plan provisions and it is incomprehensible why PMO did not exercise this option. It is noteworthy that the 1990 Plan provisions address all 2001 suggestions/demands relating to spatial planning:

  • The 2001 dialogue demanded provisions for hawking space in urban development plans. The 1990 Plan has detailed provisions, to be ensured at time of sanctions (p.18)
  • The 2001 dialogue demanded recognition of ‘natural markets’. The 1990 provisions are based on natural propensity of hawkers to locate “near work centres, commercial areas, outside…schools, colleges and hospitals, transport nodes and near large housing clusters”. (p.17).
  • The 2001 dialogue demanded quantitative norms. The 1990 Plan spells these out in great detail (pp.17-18). For Delhi’s planned population of 12.2 million, these provide for 3–4 lakh hawkers.
  • The 2001 dialogue demanded qualitative guidelines. The 1990 Plan speaks of evolving “standard efficient and colourful designs for mobile as well as stationery units” (p.18). It also says, hawking areas “should have suitable public conveniences and solid waste disposal arrangements“ (p.18).
  • The 2001 dialogue demanded multiple use of public spaces to accommodate hawkers. The 1990 Plan says, “Parking and other open spaces within commercial centres could be so designed that weekly markets can operate in these areas during non-working hours.” (p.18)
  • The 2001 dialogue demanded earmarking appropriate available existing spaces for hawkers. The 1990 Plan permits weekly markets in “existing locations” (p.58)

Implications of Disregarding Statutory Provisions in Policy Dialogues

All in all, Master Plan provisions of 1990, being better as well as statutory, made the policy dialogue of 2001 rather redundant. By disregarding the Plan the policy dialogue missed the point that what is on hand is not planning failure, but implementation failure and what is needed is not to re-invent but to roll the wheel. This sort of thing has several implications.

Firstly, it condones culprits. That Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has not ensured planned hawking space and that MCD continues to issue hawking licenses on unplanned sites in violation of Plan are serious lapses, ignored – and, thereby, condoned – in the policy dialogue of 2001. These lapses have been quite profitable for those guilty of them. The worth of extortion payments hawkers have made since 1990 is estimated to be about Rs.3300 crores. And the money made out of hawkers for being in the wrong place is just the tip of the iceberg. The real scam, overlooked in the policy dialogue, is on the real estate worth of the right places that are rightfully theirs.

Secondly, it shortchanges victims – by offering policy intention in place of statutory solution, by taking away implementation priority advantage of being ‘backlog’ and by downsizing entitlements from land to ID and loan and self-regulation. It may be mentioned that even if haats had happened, they would have given hawkers 80,000 pitches in unduly competitive segregated situations for limited hours and days, whereas the Master Plan allows 3 – 4 lakh hawkers to be thinly spread in the city, not needing contrived regulation of working hours. Haats would also not have provided convenience advantages that customers seek and, possibly, posed problems for others (as in cases where they were resisted). Such policy dialogue legitimises short-changing, can lead to downsizing of statutory provisions to sweep implementation failures under the carpet and is especially risky when the Plan is being revised.

Thirdly, it undermines faith in planned development. A leading columnist wrote about Manushi “We must all thank Madhu Kishwar for opening our eyes” and about planners that they “need to be sacked en masse” and “be in jail”. It is unfortunate that Plan-bashing provides justification for new planning, including by those who are not planners, and, therefore, along with participatory policy-making becoming fashionable, Plan-bashing has become essential fashion accessory. This also has implications for quality of planning as well as the worth of public investments in training planners.

Fourthly, it undermines responsibility for planned development. That DDA, custodian of Delhi’s Master Plan, did not inform the policy dialogue on the hawking ‘problem’ in 2001 about Parliament-approved ‘solution’ of 1990 because it had a skeleton in its cupboard is bad. That it got away with this, while it is revising the Master Plan, is frightening. Plan/policy making/revision seem to have become stand-alone exercises to produce, to borrow Kishwar’s phrase, kagaz ka tukra-s. Those in charge of implementing provisions for hawkers seem to hold the view (expressed by the Minister at MoUD/SEWA workshop and by DDA routinely) that hawkers can’t be given space because they will sell it. It seems almost as if those doing ’planning’ are only doing it because some law requires it even though they are sure it does not help. Excuses for non-implementation are not acceptable from those whose mandate it is to implement, especially when the excuses have no experiential, empirical or conceptual basis. Such policy dialogue gives space and legitimacy to unacceptable excuses.

In 1995 Manushi (journal about women and society) made a film on hawkers and rickshaw pullers. And SEWA (trade union that organises women for full emploreliance) initiated an international alliance that decided all nations must have policies for vendors. In 2001 Manushi was engaging PMO to do what it felt needed doing. And SEWA was engaging MoUD to do what it felt needed doing. Manushi-PMO effort threw up a policy for Delhi hoped to serve as a guideline for the nation. And SEWA-MoUDeffort threw up a task force to make national guidelines. For Delhi, Manushi-PMO initiative precipitated a ‘scheme’ for immediate solution. And SEWA-MoUD initiative precipitated research into the problem. By 2002 a full dozen government / public agencies were engaging directly or indirectly on hawking in Delhi (see last section) – with no reference to the statutory Master Plan... Surely, this is a mind-boggling snapshot of plain and simple anarchy. It is hardly surprising that reality has not changed even after all the hectic seminar-ing and further developments are drifting farther from the solution.

Continuing MoUD/Sewa Initiatives

While the PMO initiative seems to have run out of steam, MoUD/SEWA continue to engage, albeit on matters rather unrelated to the problem perspective of the policy dialogue from which they assumed mandate to engage.

MoUD/SEWA have set up a committee to draft a national hawker policy in pursuit of their own recommendations (patterned after Bellagio International Declaration). It is, however, noteworthy, that a consensus on need for national policy cannot be presumed. Not only was such a view not expressed in the PMO initiative, even at MoUD/SEWA workshop, some questioned the relevance of national policy since problems vary from city to city. Moreover, nothing in the problem perspective of the policy dialogue logically suggests need for national policy. In any case, being approved by Parliament, Delhi Master Plan provisions of 1990 have already the status of national guideline.

MoUD/SEWA also seem to be operationalising their own recommendation of learning from national / international ‘best practices’. In February 2002 they held (under the banner of NASVI and Streetnet / International Alliance of Street Vendors) a workshop for sharing international experiences. Master Plan provisions that answer all their (hawking-related) concerns, of course, did not feature. Incidentally, the meeting dwelled on strengthening Streetnet, including making it financially self-sufficient through fee contributions from member hawker groups.

MoUD/SEWA are also going ahead with improving access to credit. As mentioned, a ‘pilot project’ for loans to hawkers was announced in Hyderabad. Efforts of SEWA/NASVI have also led to municipal budget allocations in Ahmedabad. All this is even as there is no empirical basis to suggest that hawkers need credit for hawking per se. In fact, low capital investment is characteristic of hawking activity and credit needs of hawkers are more on account of the burden of extortion payments than business needs. Indeed, PMO connects poverty status of hawkers to restrictive licensing. Even otherwise, common sense says that unless measures are first taken to eliminate the “economic assaults” that rob hawkers of much of their finances, credit is unlikely to help. There is also a contradiction in seeing the same people as an opportunity for raising revenues (through fees, etc) for government, not to mention Streetnet, and in need of credit from government.

MoUD/SEWA are also pursuing their recommendations of civil society involvement, to which three of five ‘Next Steps’ in their workshop recommendations refer. At the workshop, Director MoUD had requested authorities “to work in tandem with SEWA for welfare of hawkers”, former Chief Justice had said “organizations like SEWA should …organize vendors in all cities”, etc. Apart from the minor question of legitimacy of ‘representation’ of the nation’s one crore hawkers by one civil society group, there is the major question of what exactly are hawkers to be organised for since the policy dialogue has not progressed to any thinking directly connected with their problems. It may be mentioned here that while PMO also suggests NGOs “may be authorized to interface” between hawkers and authorities in respect of registration, renewals, etc, this is focussed on implementation. MoUD/SEWA, however, seem to see civil society involvement as an end in itself. Perhaps that is what also explains majority representation of SEWA/NASVI in the committee for drafting a national hawker policy.

National policy, national/inter-national/inter-galactic experience sharing, national/inter-national alliances for routing micro-mini credit from government via civil society, etc, have all become one-size-fits-all mantras in contemporary welfare intervention processes. But none of this can really resolve the hawking issue, whose solution – by logic as well as by Master Plan and a series of court judgements requiring authorities to earmark hawking areas – requires (only) space. By shifting the focus of the hawking debate from land to loans, etc MoUD/SEWA initiatives seem headed towards sustaining the paraphernalia of intervention processes at the cost of sustaining the hawking problem. From this perspective, what can only be called ‘stout denial’ (see following section) of Master Plan Provisions through the policy dialogue of 2001, seems rather suspect.

‘Stout Denial’ of Statutory Provisions in Policy Processes

In February 2001 over 350 hawkers, to whom I am planner consultant, began efforts to seek (merely) implementation of existing provisions. The story of our unsuccessful efforts is a terrible tale, a separate chronicle, whose points of encounter with this one are mentioned here for additional insights.

We wrote several letters to LG (DDA Chairman), DDA Vice Chairman and Minister MoUD (Ministry in charge of DDA) for implementation of Plan provisions and to MCD and Police for holding removal in abeyance. We also sent a comprehensive report, including detailed proposals, and held a press conference. By beginning of June we had managed an assurance from DDA. Around that time MoUD/ SEWA workshop had concluded and Manushi was writing to CVC. Although, SEWA and Manushi together ‘represented’ at the time fewer hawkers and were less informed of hawkers’ entitlements in Delhi than us, our efforts in support of the Master Plan were derailed by their efforts undermining it.

Till August 2001, when PM’s policy was announced, we had engaged only with DDA and MoUD (custodians of the Master Plan) and with MCD and Police (only for removal to be held in abeyance). I had written to other agencies on specific matters, only to draw attention to Master Plan provisions. To HUDCO I wrote with reference to information about it processing the SPA study. To Delhi Urban Arts Commission (DUAC) I wrote with reference to information about other plans for a site where we had staked claim. To Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) I sent a copy of my letter to DUAC, which also mentioned provisions for hawkers at stations. After the PMO intervention, we sent a memorandum to PM and others, including CM and CVC, mentioned in news reports (whom we had not written to as they had nothing to do with implementation of Master Plan provisions). The memorandum drew attention to Plan provisions, which we said were better as well as statutory.

When the scheme for haats was announced I wrote to LG to draw attention to their likely problems and the fact that haats could only be created by violating the Plan. The scheme fell by the wayside as expected andall continued to pretend that there were no existing provisions. In desperation, we ‘demonstrated’ the solution possible under the Master Plan through an interim arrangement through a formal partnership between the associations of flat residents and hawkers. But our effort was summarily and high-handedly demolished. And, despite our objections, hawking licenses were issued to shops in violation of the Plan. We wrote to all supposed to be concerned and also to a few MPs.

Simultaneously, we ‘chased’ the fallout of the policy dialogue. We sent releases and rejoinders to the press. I sent my rejoinder to the column that had suggested planners be sacked/jailed to the planning fraternity. I wrote to HUDCO, SPA and MoUD to object to a research to identify solutions that already existed. I wrote to MoUD and HUDCO to object to the committee set up to draft a national policy in view of Master Plan having status of national guideline and to suggest that its provisions be implemented as a ‘pilot’ before any further policy initiative. I wrote to DUAC, DMRC and Council of Architecture (CoA) about the disregard of Plan provisions for hawkers in a suo moto DUAC proposal.

In October I offered nearly all mentioned above a film I had put together on our tale. In February I offered a detailed chronicle of their and our tales. In March I offered a power-point presentation… Practically no one responded. Perhaps they found the demand for implementing the existing Plan too mundane compared with demand for original policy. Perhaps they found letters, professional work, etc, too mundane compared with high-profile seminars. Perhaps they found hawkers too mundane compared with NGOs ‘representing’ hawkers. Perhaps there was something else that made them go out of the way of their mandates to ‘stoutly deny’ existence of citizens’ entitlements…

That PMO and MoUD came out (at the instance of NGOs not exclusively engaging on hawking) with policy initiatives without reference to each other or the Master Plan is incomprehensible. That a PMO ‘policy’, rather than the statutory Master Plan, formed the basis of a city scheme from the LG’s office is also incomprehensible. MoUD being directly concerned with Master Plan and LG being ex-officio Chairman of DDA (custodian of Master Plan) make their roles more incomprehensible. That in the four months before the policy dialogue took off over 350 hawkers themselves and a professional planner had written to them numerous letters, postcards, etc, drawing attention to Master Plan provisions really leave one to wonder about their refusal to refer to these in their initiatives. That practically all major statutory agencies falling under MoUD with direct or possible roles in Delhi intervened in the hawking issue without reference to the Master Plan and, in most cases, to their own institutional mandates or priorities, is also a very worrying coincidence. DDA, which had reacted positively to the hawkers’ request at the beginning of June, not only ‘changed its mind’ but also failed to inform the policy dialogue on the hawking problem about the statutory solution it had put in place a decade ago. This is even as securing development of Delhi according to Plan is not just DDA’s over-riding mandate but the basis of its existence. HUDCO, which has no history of engaging on hawking issues, is heading the committee for drafting the national hawker policy. This is even as it is mandated only to be a techno-financial agency for housing and urban development, not lead policy maker on matters it has no institutional experience on. (Incidentally, even NCRPB is represented on the national hawker policy committee. This is even as there are miles to go on its NCR development mandate and, at least traditionally, regional and hawking interventions are located at different levels of planning). While HUDCO is steering the national hawker policy, its research and training wing HSMI is steering the SPA study aimed at inventing Plan provisions that already exist. This is even as HSMI and SPA are both premier institutions, expected to set standards in urban research. DUAC has taken up a suo moto proposal in which original (and downsizing) thinking in respect of hawkers in higher order commercial centres is taking shape. It is not clear why DUAC did not take up suo moto proposals, say, in line with Master Plan suggestion for developing designs for hawker units (any time since 1990) or studies to detail out provisions for hawkers at stations (especially when DMRC became operational). Incidentally, in its suo moto proposal that seems to infringe on the hawkers’ entitlements under the Plan, DUAC has some sort of support from the Council of Architecture. This is even as CoA is mandated to regulate the quality of the profession to protect the interest of society.5 That Delhi Police remained indifferent to our attempts to draw its attention to Master Plan provisions for hawkers assumes significance in view of the fact that it is represented on MoUD’s national hawker policy committee. That MCD remained indifferent to our attempts while it was speaking of haats or issuing hawking licenses to shops on a problematic roadside in our midst assumes significance in view of a Supreme Court judgement of 1989 requiring it to work with DDA in the hawkers’ matter…

All this raises many serious questions about governance in general and planning in particular. What I feel most worried about at the moment is imminent downsizing of Master Plan provisions for hawkers.

This paper, part of an on-going chronicle, is put out in the hope of a happier ending than the one that is clearly shaping.


  1. SEWA/NASVI, 2001, ‘A report on National Workshop on Street Vendors – May 29-30, 2001, Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi – Organized by Ministry of Urban Development & Poverty Alleviation And Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)’
  2. ‘Reforming the Licensing Regime: Prime Minister's New Policy for Street Hawkers and Rickshaw Pullers in Delhi – A Concept Note Prepared by the Prime Minister's Office’, Manushi (Issue 125), 2001,
  3. ‘Role of Hawkers in the Urban Informal Sector and Internalizing Hawking Activities and Spaces in the City Planning and Development Process’. Terms of Reference of study commissioned by MoUD to SPA
  4. BJP-Sandesh (Vol.2.No.9), September 2001, ‘Pradhan Mantir Ki Chinta’ [‘Prime Minister’s Concern’], Editorial.
  5. Manushi (Issue 125), 2001, ‘Manushi organises Lok Sunwayi of cycle rickshaw pullers and owners’; ‘In Danger of Sabotage: Historic Intervention by the Prime Minister’.
  6. SEWA/NASVI, 2002, Footpath ki awaz, April 2002, ‘Pheri-tokrivalon ke liye shighra hi disha nirdesh [Guidelines for street vendors soon]; ‘Tast force ke dusri baithak ki vivranika’ [Proceedings of Second Meeting of Task Force]
  7. Times of India, August 18, 2001, ‘Govt hawks loans to street vendors’
  8. Times of India, September 1, 2001, ‘LG meets officials over reforms for rickshaw-pullers’
  9. Times of India, September 3, 2001, ‘Economic reforms not just for the rich: PM’
  10. Times of India, September 4, 2001, ‘Second generation reforms for the common people’ by Madhu Kishwar
  11. Times of India, September 8, 2001, ‘Govt to scrap licences for rickshaw’
  12. Hindustan Times, September 10, 2001, ‘The haat is a lonely hunter: PM’s scheme for vendors not working’
  13. Hindustan Times, September 11, 2001, ‘No more licenses needed for plying cycle rickshaws’
  14. Times of India, September 29, 2001, ‘An open letter to the PM’ by Madhu Kishwar
  15. Hindustan Times, September 29, 2001, ‘Two haats for vendors in each MCD zone’
  16. Hindustan Times, October 8, 2001, ‘Opening of haat sparks off protest’
  17. Times of India, October 29, 2001, ‘Task force looking into vendors' woes’
  18. Times of India, November 25, 2001, ‘Street hawking, cycle-rickshaws promise jobs in the future’ by SAA Aiyar,
  19. Express Newsline, February 1, 2002, ‘Drawing lines for hawkers is crossing limit: MCD’
  20. Manushi and SEWA web-sites
  • 1. For 100,000 residential population the Plan provides for 8 to 900 hawkers. Plan norms allow over 25,000 hawkers in work areas and near hospitals, colleges, etc, besides a large number of hawkers in higher-order commercial areas and bus/railway terminals. Besides these ‘integrated’ provisions for over 200,000 hawkers, the Plan provides for over 100,000 hawkers in weekly markets. It also has provision for informal sector eating places in several locations.
  • 2. In 1995, Madhu Kishwar, editor of Manushi had made a documentary film on harassment of hawkers and rickshaw pullers by police and municipal functionaries in Delhi. “...apart from awareness raising, the film by itself did not lead to any redressal. Therefore, [Manushi] began the process of organised lobbying [in 2001].”
  • 3. SEWA “is a trade union registered in 1972”. Its “main goals are to organise women workers for full emploreliance” (that is, full employment and self-reliance). Its membership is concentrated in Gujrat. Hawkers account for a small proportion of it. In 1995 SEWA initiated the International Alliance for Street Vendors, which came out with the Bellagio International Declaration that “sets forth a plan to create national policies”. In September 1998, SEWA initiated the National Alliance of Street Vendors India (NASVI) for “pushing forward the demand for a National Policy”. Regional meetings in Delhi, Patna, Mumbai and Bangalore were held in 1999. In March 2000 “45 participants from 12 cities assembled [in Ahmedabad] to deliberate over the desired shape of national policy”. SEWA also “approached the Planning Commission to facilitate a policy dialogue with relevant ministries at the national level”. And in May 2001 the central government’s MoUD and SEWA jointly organized a national policy dialogue on hawkers.
  • 4. It is also noteworthy that, unlike suggestions / demands made for hawkers in isolation in 2001, the Master Plan views them as a part of city trade more holistically. In addition to specific provisions for space for hawkers, the Plan alsospecifies the numerical share of low turnover shops in the total shops in planned commercial areas (p.17). In a sense, these provisions provide an upward flexibility in the norms for hawking, a potential ‘bridge’ for hawkers to move into the formal sector
  • 5. It is noteworthy that DDA, HUDCO/HSMI, NCRPB, SPA, DUAC, CoA are all agencies closely connected to the planning profession. Not only do I know most of the people I have written to personally in my professional capacity I have also worked as consultant and as Senior Fellow in HUDCO/HSMI and am alumnus of as well as visiting faculty in SPA. Still, none responded to the serious concerns of a serious co-professional.