Excerpts from MANUSHI, a journal about women and society, also high-profile NGO that precipitated in 2001 in Delhi a Prime Minister's policy in disregard of statutory Delhi Master Plan provisions for hawkers and has, since then, come to occupy centre-stage in the dominant discourse on hawker-policy in Delhi. (The last, of March-April 2003, provides an account of how Supreme Court approval was obtained and is included in annexure in additional affidavit in MPISG PIL)

Jhadu Pooja at Sewa Nagar - Manushi's Campaign for Cleansing Governance

Madhu Kishwar, MANUSHI, No.127, November-December 2001

Data collected by manushi on the basis of interviews with street vendors from dozens of hawkers markets of Delhi showed that the nearly five lakh hawkers estimated to be working in Delhi are being forced to pay at least Rs. 40 crores a month by way of bribes in cash and kind to the police and municipal officials. Much of this money could well reach the municipal coffers by way of taxes. Instead it is lining the pockets of corrupt officials and anti-social elements.

On December 19, 2001, the Sewa Nagar unit of Manushi Nagrik Adhikar Manch, MNAM (Manushi Citizens’ Rights Forum) began a new initiative with an innovative ceremony named Jhadu Pooja (Worship of the Cleaning Broom) in Sewa Nagar Hawker Market. …This ceremony inaugurated a new phase in MNAM’s mobilization of street vendors and resolve to free them from the parasitic hold of the police, municipal authorities and other government agencies that harass and fleece them.

We are hopeful that the plan to develop Sewa Nagar hawker market into a model market for all of Delhi will catalyse similar efforts in other markets of Delhi. Already, several other markets have shown interest in bonding under similar discipline.

As a start at Sewa Nagar, we picked up the accumulated garbage in and around the market. A committee of eleven was elected to oversee the Self Regulation Drive. We got an undertaking from all our members that they would do daily cleaning and maintenance of the market themselves. On December 23, we held a ceremony of drawing a Sanyam Rekha (Line of Self Discipline) in green paint after consensual agreement among a majority of hawkers that they would not allow their rehdis or wares to cross the Sanyam Rekha. Each hawker has paid Rs. 500 for the initial corpus required to improve the sanitary conditions in that area.

Developing Sewa Nagar as a model market involves substantial investment of time, effort and money. If the authorities decide to swoop down on this market and confiscate the goods and rehdis as they are prone to do during Clearance Operations, this would lead to serious demoralization. MNAM will then not be able to enthuse others into following the Sewa Nagar model. Therefore, we approached the High Court… A temporary stay was granted by the High Court against eviction of Sewa Nagar hawkers upto January 18 …

A team of architects led by Prof. Anubha Chakravarty of the School of Planning and Architecture and Asmita is helping us redesign and upgrade the Sewa Nagar market. Prof. Geetam Tiwari of the Transport Research and Injury Prevention Programme of the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, is also assisting us in this endeavour. We are in the process of working out detailed plans, that include garbage recycling, rational waste disposal as well as upgradation of the rehdis used by vendors and making shopping in that area into an aesthetic experience. Each vendor has contributed Rs.500 each towards this effort. We have already collected Rs.50,000 and we hope to raise another Rs.30,000 from Sewa Nagar hawkers. Most of the vendors are are cleaning up the place themselves at least four times a day.

Manushi is committed to raising additional funds required for this effort that includes paving, beautification and painting of walls and greening the area. It is estimated that we will need nearly 5 lakh rupees. The first donation of Rs.10,001 towards the Sewa Nager fund came from Dr. Anantha Nageswaran. We solicit your support in this effort. Even small contributions will go a long way in keeping the momentum going and our morale high. Equally important, we need volunteers from Lodhi Estate and residents of nearby colonies, especially Defence Colony who regularly use this market to join in monitoring this effort. The visible vigilance by educated, middle and upper class people will also help keep the police under check.

Model Market and Clean Governance Fund

I would like to contribute Rs................................towards manushi’s campaign to develop model markets and strengthen the organisation of street vendors towards self-regulation and cleansing of governance in Delhi.


You may send your cheque/draft/M.O/cash payable Manushi Trust, C1/3, Sangam Estate, No.1 Under Hill Road, Civil Lines, Delhi-110054. Donations to Manushi Trust are exempted u/s 80G of the Income Tax Act, 1961.

Model Market at Sewa Nagar - Attempts at Collaboration with City Administration

Madhu Kishwar, MANUSHI, No.128, January-February 2002

After the announcement of the Prime Minister’s New Policy for street hawkers… in response to Manushi’s campaign … the municipal authorities were expected to announce a concrete plan of action … However, till date no concrete steps have been taken … all our efforts to get the New Policy implemented were being stonewalled, with the Lt. Governor of Delhi… taking on a hostile stance and refusing to even negotiate on the issue. Therefore, we felt compelled to approach the Delhi High Court for a stay order on the continuing economic assaults on street vendors… We managed to get only an interim stay order. …On January 31, 2002, the lawyers appearing on behalf of the municipal corporation argued vociferously against our plea… They told the Court that a new policy framework for these sectors had been evolved and promised to submit it before the Court...

In the meantime, Manushi took the initiative to develop Sewa Nagar hawker market as a model for the rest of the city … We made a special plea to the High Court to protect Sewa Nagar from the impending clearance operation. On January 4, 2002 the Court provided interim relief by way of a limited stay order against eviction of Sewa Nagar hawkers… We realized we could not count on the Court for long term protection. The legalistic arguments presented in Court by the lawyers representing the police and municipal authorities against hawkers tend to carry more weight with the judges than the issues raised by us on behalf of hawkers. The law, as it exists, does define the very existence of hawkers as illegal…

Moreover, it became increasingly clear that by engaging us in a long drawn out confrontation the authorities could easily exhaust our energy and break our spirit. …we had to ensure that the city administration felt compelled to cooperate…

Even our plans of developing Sewa Nagar had come to a standstill in the face of administrative hostility. We were hesitant to invest money we had collected for the purpose of architectural and civic improvements in Sewa Nagar unless we were assured of a measure of protection from the authorities.

Our first breakthrough came with the Additional Commissioner of MCD Mr. Ramesh Negi, agreeing to visit Sewa Nagar on December 19, 2001 to get an idea of our plans …Mr. Negi also joined us in the worship of the sacred broom. Incidentally, our architectural plans at Sewa Nagar include a Jhadu Mandir. He was visibly touched by the new culture of self regulation MNAM was trying to build and was open enough to admit that he too was initially annoyed at the challenge posed by manushi to existing policies …The vendors who had gathered for a dialogue with him were surprised to hear him candidly share with them how the bureaucratic mind-set prefers inertia to a shake-up …Mr. Negi cheered us all by declaring that he would be willing to cooperate if we come up with a worthwhile proposal for civic improvement and self-regulation, especially with regard to sanitation and rational garbage management… At the same time Mr. Negi insisted that we get the Delhi government and the Court to formally endorse our efforts … so that its survival does not solely depend on the goodwill of one or two officials who cannot deliver much in the face of resistance and sabotage by their own colleagues, unless the policy framework changed.

we approached the Chief Minister of Delhi, Mrs Sheila Dikshit to include our project of creating model hawker markets in the Bhagidari (partnership) scheme …The initial response of the Chief Minister has been positive and we are hopeful something worthwhile may well come of it.

While our architectural design and beautification interventions in Sewa Nagar are awaiting the formal approval by the Chief Minister’s office, we entered into collaboration with an NGO called Vatavaran headed by Iqbal Malik for garbage recycling and disposal. They have deputed three trained safai karamcharis for this job in Sewa Nagar at a salary of Rs. 2000 each. Each vendor is paying Rs. 25 per month towards the salary of this Cleaning Brigade.

Working Under Constant Threat - Some Setbacks and Some Steps Forward in Sewa Nagar

Madhu Kishwar, MANUSHI, 130, May-June 2002

Even though Mr. Negi was moved to another portfolio in MCD soon after, he has helped us build bridges with other officials in the Corporation. …The Bharatiya Janata Party was routed in the Municipal elections …When the Congress Party came to power we had hoped to find a more responsive atmosphere, especially since Chief Minister of Delhi Smt. Sheila Dikshit had shown interest in the idea. However, it soon became clear that getting a positive response from the Chief Minister is one thing and getting the Congress party’s newly elected corporators and city officials to co-operate or yield space is quite another.

The most positive development, however, was the coming of the new Municipal Commissioner, Mr. Rakesh Mehta. … In our very first meeting we were able to establish a good rapport. He showed great excitement at our proposal and agreed to give us the go ahead at once. In fact, he suggested that we begin the work with the entire Chandni Chowk and New Delhi Railway Station area … We said we are ready to take on the challenge, provided we are first allowed to show results in Sewa Nagar and the CGO Complex area…

However, within a couple of days, Mr. Mehta expressed his inability to go ahead with even one token market, saying his officials had convinced him that this would amount to going against the orders of the Supreme Court issued in May 1993 in the Gainda Ram versus MCD case… and might invite a jail term on himself for contempt of court! However, we persevered with Mr. Mehta because we were confident that a person of his integrity would see reason. Our negotiations are still on and it seems likely that he will give us a go ahead, at least for Sewa Nagar, and hopefully for more markets, if the Sewa Nagar experiment succeeds.

the humble municipal sweepers are no less potent in creating hurdles. For the last couple of months members of the cleaning brigade Vatavaran, employed by Sewa Nagar vendors for garbage removal and recycling, were being threatened by the Sanitation Department of the Municipal Corporation of that zone. Our workers were told it was illegal for anyone except government appointed sweepers to carry out any cleaning activity on government land… Their real grouse is that with our people taking charge of cleaning.

With such an atmosphere of all round hostility and uncertainty, we could not proceed with our development plans all these months because development of the area involves the investment of a lot of money and time that would be negated if the market was uprooted. However, we continued hectic all round lobbying through these months. Finally, we were invited by the Delhi Chief Minister to make a presentation of our plans on June 25. …On the same evening, we made a presentation to the Municipal Commissioner Mr. Mehta.

While Ms. Dikshit seems willing to allow us to at least experiment in a couple of areas, many of her officials seem reluctant and resistant to any proposals for improvement.

At the heart of this battle lies the imperial assumption that the country’s land and other resources belong to the government and that the people exist on bureaucratic sufferance.

It is now over eight months since we began pleading with the city authorities to allow us the right to clean up as well as beautify public spaces, and to allow us to create an atmosphere of civic discipline so that those providing essential civic services in the city can carry on their work in dignity while at the same time perform their civic duties. And what do we get in return? Snubs and humiliation for the most part, with an occasional nod of approval from those few in the government who don’t treat their office as a license to loot. Most officials make us feel like colonial subjects begging for favours from imperial masters rather than free citizens of a democracy. The MCD officials say they will ask the Supreme Court’s permission before they give us a go-ahead, lest they are hauled up for disobeying court directives. Manushi too plans to petition the Supreme Court to revise its earlier guidelines in the light of the New Policy enunciated by the Prime Minister. However, we are not giving up, knowing full well that the task of democratising governance is bound to be a long drawn out battle.

In the next issue of Manushi, we will publish details of contributions received for Manushi’s Model Market Fund and further progress of this project.

We reproduce below the text of the letter submitted to the MCD Commissioner as well as to the Chief Minister of Delhi asking for a collaborative relationship of bhagidari in developing model markets in Delhi…

Dear Mr. Mehta,

As a follow up of our meeting yesterday, I am putting down in writing Manushi’s proposal for developing world-class hawker markets in Delhi. We hope these can become role models for the rest of the city and set new standards of citizen’s responsibility and partnership in governance.

We have selected the following three sites to develop model markets: 1. Hawker Market on both sides of Sewa Nagar – Lodi Colony railway crossing which has about 300 hawkers. 2. Hawker cluster outside CGO Complex, which hosts about 50-60 hawkers. 3. Hawker clusters around Dhaula Kuan bus stop.

These three represent three different scenarios: Sewa Nagar hawkers serve residential areas of Defence Colony, Lodhi Colony and Kotla Mubarakpur, CGO Complex vendors exist in response to the demand from office goers and the Dhaula Kuan cluster provides services that typically grow around bus stops.

A team of architects led by Vrinda Makwana and supervised by Prof. K. T. Ravindran [have prepared] detailed plans for their up- gradation. We will start with Sewa Nagar and CGO Complex because the blueprints for both these proposed markets are [now ready].

I list below the tasks we will undertake:

  • Improvement in the physical infrastructure of the area, including beautification of pavements, boundary walls, local parks and greening the area. Each hawker has already contributed Rs. 500 for this work. In addition, Manushi has already collected more than Rs. 1 lakh through contributions from our supporters. We are confident of collecting more from residents of neighbouring colonies who come as consumers to this market.
  • Scientific garbage management and recycling through voluntary contributions from hawkers. The NGO Vatavaran is already handling this job for us in Sewa Nagar and each hawker is paying Rs.30 to 60 per month.
  • Building effective water harvesting structures before the coming monsoon.
  • Improvement and beautification of rehdis or stalls put up by hawkers. cost of this will be borne by each hawker.
  • Commitment in writing from each hawker that they will not put up any unauthorised permanent structure on the pavements or anywhere else in the market.. The redesigned rehdis will provide protection from rain but will be mobile so they can be moved for daily cleaning of the market.
  • Proper survey of the space available for placing hawkers and commitment to keep them within a consensually agreed upon Sanyam Rekha or Line of Self Discipline. This line of discipline will be a standard feature of whichever market we undertake to bring under Manushi’s management and supervision.
  • Undertaking to collect municipal taxes for the MCD from each of our members on an yearly basis.
  • Responsibility for collecting electricity and water dues and prevent pilferage and theft of electricity, provided proper electricity and water meters are provided and we are allowed to organise these services in an appropriate and aesthetic manner as an integral part of our overall architectural plan.
  • Involve residents from neighbouring colonies who come to shop in these markets, to collaborate with Manushi’s efforts and get involved in initiating a high level of self-discipline among both shoppers and sellers.
  • Invite well-known painters and sculptors to contribute their art on select spots in the market. The walls will be so beautified as to look like open-air art galleries. All this will be organised on a voluntary basis from our friends among the art community in Delhi.
  • Provide for an open space for music, street theatre and other performances and maintain the local parks as beauty spots.
  • Earmark and maintain proper parking spaces for vehicular traffic, including cycle rickshaws in a way that decongests the area and makes pedestrian shopping a pleasant experience.
  • Provide proper arrangements for the utilisation of the cow dung from cattle that come into this area from Kotla Mubarakpur village. At present they are let loose in the vegetable and fruit market, are treated as a nuisance and are brutally beaten by shopkeepers. But the enormous waste being generated in the wholesale sabzi market can easily be used as cattle feed at properly designated spots. This would prevent the cattle from roaming the market in search of food. What we expect from the MCD:
  • Quick clearance of architectural plans that we will submit to the MCD Commissioner before implementation.
  • Monetary contribution for carrying out improvements in the civic infrastructure. This could either be by way of a matching grant as part of bhagidari or payment per unit cost of construction.
  • Co-operation from MCD inspectors in making a new beginning and end to harassment and threats.
  • Proper maintenance of the roads so that they match the improved environment.
  • Work out an appropriate tax rate for each category of vendor and for each market according to its business potential.
  • Provide a sense of permanence to this bhagidari so the vendors can work with confidence and security.
  • Allow us to carry out similar programmes in many more markets, if this experiment is executed successfully.

We are reasonably confident of making a success of this plan and then would be ready to take on a similar exercise for the Red Fort, Railway Station area as proposed by you. We are also confident that it will motivate and inspire vendors in other areas to follow this model. Given our wide membership base among hawkers spread all over Delhi, it is very likely that this experiment could trigger off a new era of responsible citizenship, collaboration between different classes of citizens as well as a creative partnership between citizens and government. All of this would help make Delhi a city we can be proud of.

I look forward to receiving an early go-ahead from you. With warm regards,

Madhu Kishwar.
May 21, 2002

Major Breakthrough for Street Vendors - MANUSHI Hawker Market Project Gets Supreme Court Clearance

Madhu Kishwar, MANUSHI No.135, March-April, 2003

For long years, manushi’s diverse efforts to get the officialdom to be responsive to the needs of this vital sector of our economy were being stonewalled. Fortunately for us, Mr Rakesh Mehta took charge of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) from Mr Aggarwal in 2002. Before him, the only officer who till then had given us a good response was Mr Negi. But as long as the MCD was headed by an officer averse to citizen’s involvement, even those officers who wanted to lend support could not be very effective. Mr. Mehta brought about new energy into administration …

Over the years, we have found a simple reliable litmus test for gauging the corruption level of any officer: an honest officer is invariably open to citizens’ involvement and suggestions for improvement. By contrast, an officer who uses his office of power mainly to siphon off public funds and extort bribes will almost always be hostile to the idea of citizens’ engagement in decision making processes …

To begin with, Mr Mehta too was sceptical about our pleadings on behalf of street hawkers… However, once he was convinced … he adopted our project with enthusiasm. His first challenge was to get the proposal passed by the Standing Council of the Municipal Corporation where he faced tremendous opposition from corporators of all political hues. Even when they reluctantly approved the model market proposal, both BJP and Congress corporators made common cause with one another in opposing the involvement of manushi … Mr Mehta did not at that stage make an issue of who was to implement the scheme and simply got the project cleared …

Mr Mehta was told by his own officials that he would be committing contempt of court … if he allowed the two pilot projects … Therefore, his next challenge was to get the Supreme Court to put its stamp of approval on the model market project. He chose the best possible lawyers for the case and allowed manushi to work closely with them. Mr Mukul Rohatagi was assisted by Sanjeev Sen in the case. … The petition they filed in the Supreme Court on behalf of the MCD is an impressive landmark in the history of governance in post-Independence India. …Since government officers do not have to pay anything from their pockets for fighting court cases… government lawyers usually prolong litigation to the maximum possible extent because the longer the case drags on, the more money they make. Government agencies rarely accept their faults …However, in this case, the MCD petitioned the Court with the open admission that the existing municipal policy with regard to hawking and vending licences had been a failure … This admission required dexterous handling because the entire licensing system was devised and sealed by the Supreme Court … To tell the mighty Supreme Court that their system had proved a disaster is a risky affair since it could easily be interpreted as contempt of court. Also, for a Municipal Commissioner to admit in writing that municipal officials working under him are abusing the system for personal gain requires real courage…

our previous experience had taught us that official orders could hardly be implemented in the absence of local political support. … in order to blunt the hostility of the local Congress Corporator of Sewa Nagar, we decided to get in touch with the Delhi Pradesh Congress President, Subhash Sharma, whom I had known since my student union days… his response was : This is the first time my sister has asked me for anything. Take it that this will be done. But he imposed one condition that we should undertake the project in his constituency of Kalkaji as well. Thereafter, things moved swiftly. Within three days, he arranged for me to meet the Chairman of the Standing Committee, Mr. Ram Babu Sharma, who had all this time serious misgivings about of our pilot project. But once he was told that Subhash Sharma had adopted it, Ram Babu also assumed a brotherly role.

during our first meeting, Ram Babu openly declared : Behenji, we are very clear on this. When we don’t want to do something we know how to obstruct it, even if orders come from the Supreme Court or the Party High Command. At such times, there is no point citing rules and court orders to us. But when we want to do something, we put aside all rule books and just go ahead and do it, Now that we have accepted you as our sister and you have come to seek our help, we will make sure it works. But if you had by-passed us, we would have found any number of ways of thwarting your work.

An essential requirement for the success of this pilot project is to discipline and bring under control local police and municipal inspectors … Our success will depend on whether or not we can ensure strict civic discipline about sanitation and hawkers staying within allocated spaces (the sanyam rekha), including those who may try to break it by bribing the police or currying favour with the local corporator and finally whether we can ensure the continuity of such model markets … even without outside monitoring.