This film on the livelihood battles of our NANO ENTREPRENEURS was telecasted over DD in 1997. After the primetime telecast, both vendors & rickshaw owners kept pouring into Manushi office to insist that we don’t stop at merely exposing their plight but do something to bring them relief.
Consequently, I spent the last 23 years working on a lot more ground-level research to assist in advocacy campaign for policy & law reform for street hawkers, rickshaws owners &pullers to encourage the use of eco-friendly Non-Motorized Vehicles.
This included organizing Jan Sunwais (Public Hearings), nagging ministers & officials connected with the noxious laws and policies governing these two sectors plus PILs in Delhi High Court & Supreme Court. At the time, most bureaucrats & police officers, political leaders & even judges were extremely hostile to the presence of these groups in our cities & treated them as an unwanted nuisance. Some even openly called them “vermin, who deserved to be exterminated”.
- First Breakthrough: Central Vigilance Commissioner, N.Vittal who presided over two public hearings, was moved by our presentation and sent off letters to CM, PM et al, demanding reform.
- Second Breakthrough: In 2001, then PM A.B. Vajpayee announced a historic new policy for vendors & rickshaw pullers drafted by then Addl. Sec to PM, Pradipto Ghosh accepting the entire analysis and demand list of Manushi. But on the ground situation got worse.
- Third Breakthrough: We approached Delhi Court & later Supreme Court in separate PILs. We won multiple battles in both courts. Rickshaw policy declared unconstitutional in 2006. Court banned confiscation of rickshaws. But the ground situation did not improve.
- Fourth Breakthrough: IAS Rakesh Mehta, then Municipal Commissioner lent us support. IAS Renuka Vishwanathan also joined Manushi Board and became our vigorous advocate.
Mehta allowed us to create two model markets for vendors:
- OPERATION SABOTAGE: Successful experiment invited violent backlash; sabotaged by police & politicians. Led to endless physical attacks by local mafias with police backing. Three violent attacks in the year 2007 could well have been fatal for me. Those court cases still going on.
- BIG SUCCESS: I was invited to draft a new law for street vendors by the ministry of Urban Affairs. That draft became the basis for new law enacted for the protection of street vendors in 2014.
As part of Rakesh Mehta headed Task Force, I also drafted new law for cycle rickshaws & other NMVs for Delhi Govt in 2011. Old rickshaw law junked thanks to HC and SC judgements in our PILs. But new the high court order was not honestly implemented.
Major offshoot of Rickshaw PIL: Chandni Chowk Redevelopment Project took off in the process of creating dedicated road space for NMVs, full-scale pedestrianization which allowed only NMVs to ply & motor vehicles were prohibited during daytime in redeveloped Chandni Chowk.
However, implementation was very shoddy & dishonest: Exposure to criminal mafias that control police thanas and institutions of governance has been very traumatic.
Consequently, MANUSHI print edition had to be suspended because for years all our money, time and energy was consumed due to repeated violent attacks and endless confrontations with political goondas and police with courts not able to offer any substantial relief, except orders which no one in police takes seriously.
I will soon publish a book with a detailed account of this prolonged battle which took a heavy toll of my academic career, health, finances and personal life. We did all this work without taking a single rupee from Govt or any donor agency. Spent from own pocket and occasional donations to MANUSHI. Before that, I will share a comprehensive audio-visual presentation on this journey, which sometimes gave hope but often proved heartbreaking.