Friday, February 28, 2014

Street Vendor and the State

Step out the terminus railway station - Sealdah and you find your self standing in front of one of the biggest taxi stands with men socked in sweat shouting Howrah Howrah!!! The hot and humid air coming from the swampy delta and sea nearby, makes you utterly uncomfortable and believe me you would want to tear off your shirt and run for a near by cool water pond, but wait you can't do that so keep walking.

Coming out of the taxi stand you will be stunned to see the crisscross flyovers and a city of black and yellow taxis, buses and tram, with no sight of any permanent settlement.(which reminds you of the song "ae dil hai mushkil jeena yahan ye hai Bombay, ye hai Bombay, ye hai Bombay meri jaan" but you wont be mistaken for the Bengali script will keep remind you that you happen to be standing on a different side of India that just happens to be a bit similar to the city for which the song was penned down).  The city lives under the highway, i must say. And who are these people? Street vendor. What are they selling? Well, think of cheap decoratives, cell phones, Chinese goods, lamps, CDs, DVDs, posters, milk shakes, sweets, fruits, etc spread along the sides of the broad roads from one end to another, from north to south, from east to west. Walk and walk and walk and still it seems the city never begins to show its other face.

By the night the archaic buildings become hotels and and who knows what business goes on inside those walls and dark rooms. And more importantly where does the city goes in the night? Where do those people sleep?

Well, my friends do not be bothered we have more important things to discuss than a bunch of invalids. Yes, invalids they are, for they make our cities look dirty, they are involved in crimes such as rapes, they do not pay the taxes and they do not have any identity. Is it so?

The concerns revolving around these poor people have made many civil society activists raise these issues to the Centre. The National Commission of Safaai Karmachai have been asking for addressal of their demands for long.

The centre came up with a National Policy on Urban Street Vendors in 2009 (the links of the same is attached below). The policy recognises the need of regularising street vending in cities. There are on an average 2 million Street Vendors in each city in India. The centre realises the harassment at the hands of police and local mafias that these poor people face in absence of any mechanism to address their plight. The Ho'nable Supreme Court had in 1989 drawn attention towards the Article19 (g)of the Constitution and the need to properly regulate street vendors.

Recently the Parliament of India passed a much awaited The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill. The Bill has several commendable provisions. The Bill seeks to constitute a  Town Vending Committee (TVC). The TVC would perform various functions such as demarcation non-vending zones, limiting vendors to a maximum of 2.5% of total city's population, providing ID cards, co-ordinate with local authorities in urban planning and being and interface with the police for the street vendors. The Bill also provides for a  grievance redressal committee this will help bringing justice to the street vendors in case of harassment. Preference is give to the marginalised sections: Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward Classes (OBCs), minorities, women and disabled persons.

Street vending gives an informal source of earning to the numerous unemployed men and women in India and the Bill will certain be a step towards regularization of the same. The successful implementation of the Act will call for efficient establishment of mechanism suggested in the Act on grass root level. Also, the municipal subjects fall under the State list, so concerns are being raised about the possible centre-state friction that can come up.

With time, we can hope that the myriad problems faced by our fellow country men who have by far been marginalized and left to live on the side walks of our mega cities, will be properly addressed.


Loneliness in Bengal for a Hindi speaker may not be an exception
Yes!you guessed it right, its Salt Lake City, in front of DLF buildings 

(Dedicated to 15th June 2010 - the day I kept my step for the first time(technically, second time but I feel it was never so intimate as this time) on the literary soil of West Bengal to be only stunned by the abject poverty and plight of innumerable men and women. The land of Tagore, Stayajit Ray, Eden Garden, Park Street, Victoria Palace, Writer's Building.....and what not... I stood silent.)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act

  • Replaces the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.
  • The provisions of this Bill shall not apply to 16 existing legislation that provide for land acquisition. viz: The Atomic Energy Act, 1962, The National Highways Act, 1956, SEZ Act, 2005, Land Acquisition (Mines) Act, 1885, The Railways Act, 1989.
  • The provisions of the Bill relating to land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement shall be applicable in cases when the appropriate government acquires land, (a) for its own use and control, (b) to transfer it for the use of private companies for public purpose, and (c) on the request of private companies for immediate use for public purpose. 
  • If private companies acquire more than 100 acres of land in rural and more than 50 acres of land in urban areas R&R package to be provided.
  • Public Purpose: Land acquired for (a) strategic defense purposes & national security, (b) roads, railways, highways, and ports, built by government or public sector enterprises (c) planned development, and (e) residential purposes for the poor and landless. 
  • Public purpose includes other government projects which benefit the public as well as provision of public goods and services by private companies or public private partnerships; these require the consent of 80 % of project affected people. Affected families include those whose livelihood may be affected due to the acquisition, and includes landless labourers and artisans.

A maximum of five per cent of irrigated multi-cropped land may be acquired in a district, with certain conditions. 

Every acquisition requires a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) by an independent body followed by a preliminary notification and a final award by the District Collector. 

In the case of urgency, the Bill proposes that the appropriate government shall acquire the land after 30
days from the date of the issue of the notification (without SIA). This clause may be used only for defense, national security, and conditions arising out of a national calamity. 

The compensation for the land acquired shall based on the higher of (a) the minimum land value, specified in the Indian Stamp Act, 1899 for the registration of sale deeds; and (b) the average sale price of the higher priced 50% of all sale deeds registered in the previous 3 years for similar type of land situated in the vicinity. This amount is further doubled in case of rural areas. The value of the assets (trees, plants, buildings etc) attached to the land being acquired will be added to this amount. This total amount will then be multiplied by two to get the final compensation amount; in case of the urgency clause, this multiplication factor will be 2.75.

The Bill proposes the following authorities;

Administrator; Commissioner for Rehabilitation and Resettlement; Rehabilitation and Resettlement Committee (for acquisition of 100 acres or more of land); National Monitoring Committee for Rehabilitation and Resettlement; and Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Authority (which shall adjudicate all
disputes, with appeal to the High Court).

If an acquired land which is transferred to a person for a consideration, is left unutilised for a period of 10 years from the date it was acquired, it shall be returned to the Land Bank or the appropriate government.

The Bill proposes that in cases where the ownership of an acquired land is sold to any person, without any
development made, 20 per cent of the profit made shall be shared among all the persons from whom the land was acquired.


Food Security

The Nation Food Security Act seeks to:

  • Provide legal guarantee to 75% rural and 50% urban population to 5Kgs of food grain per month at Rs. 3, Rs. 2 and Re. 1 for rice, wheat and coarse grain respectively.
  • Provide for he nutritional needs of pregnant and lactating women (maternity benefit of atleast Rs. 6,000 for six months).
  • Make the eldest woman (above the age of 18 years) head of a household for the issue of the ration cards.
  • Social audit and vigilance committee to ensure accountability, transparency and quick redressal of grievances. 

PDS is most states is not functioning efficiently. There is 45-55% of leakage of food grains and intended beneficiaries are left out.

NFSA seeks to seal leakages in food delivery system through technological and administrative interventions such as Aadhar cards and setting up new accountability, transparency and grievance redressal system.

For the implementation of the Act, nearly 60 million tonnes of food grains will be required. The infrastrucural weakness of FCI is a concern area.

Also, the rising food prices are bound to bring economic pressure on the government while implementing the Act.

Declining productivity, land and water degradation, rising petroleum prices, climate changes are some of the supply side constraints.

Areas that need to be addressed: raising agricultural investment, R&D, human capital, roads, market, storage, processing, organic farming

Source: Kurukshetra magazine

Decade of Innovation: 2010-20

What is NInC?

The National Innovation Council (NInC) under the Chairmanship of Mr. Sam Pitroda, Adviser to the PM on PIII to discuss, was set up to analyse and help implement strategies for inclusive innovation in India and prepare a Roadmap for Innovation 2010-2020.

Innovation is seen as a way forward in the direction of giving novel solutions to our problems. Innovation can helps in creating scalable, affordable, sustainable products that can then help in poverty alleviation, rural communication, improving public health facilities etc. It is being seen as a way of evolving sustainable and cost effective solutions.

NInC will seek to create a Roadmap for Innovations for the next decade by focusing on five key parameters: Platform; Inclusion; Eco-system; Drivers and Discourse.

Source: NInC website

What is DIF?

The 13th Finance Commission has made grants of Rs. 1 crore to each district (District Innovation Funds) for carrying out Innovation

What is Nation Knowledge Commission?

The NKN is a state-of-the-art multi-gigabit pan-India network for providing a unified high speed network backbone for all knowledge related institutions in the country. The purpose of such a knowledge network goes to the very core of the country's quest for building quality institutions with requisite research facilities and creating a pool of highly trained professionals. The NKN will enable scientists, researchers and students from different backgrounds and diverse geographies to work closely for advancing human development in critical and emerging areas.

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