Victory For Street Vendors in East Delhi

THE footpath shopkeepers who had been evicted 3 months ago by the Delhi Police and the RWA Mayur Vihar Phase-3 (District East Delhi NCR) have won an important victory and have been reinstated as a result of united struggle and people’s protest. These workers and farmers who had come from their villages 40-50 years ago in search of livelihood first endured oppression in Delhi NCR factories in order to sustain their families; when they were thrown out of the factories they took recourse to self-employment and started selling vegetables, fruit and other necessities on the footpaths of the city. These small shops were also removed by the government and wealthy people. On the one hand, the Prime Minister himself advocates chai-pakoda, tea, and cycle repair shops; on the other hand, his cronies are bent on snatching away even this meager livelihood. The action by the police and dominant sections of society destroyed the livelihoods of hundreds of families.

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The CPIML and AICCTU affiliate Rehadi Khokha Patri Mahasangh Mayur Vihar Phase-3 Trans-Yamuna Zonal Committee started a people’s mobilization in August against this anti-people, anti-livelihood government for the reinstatement of these poor vendors. Applications were submitted to the Delhi government, Delhi Municipal Corporation, and Delhi Police for reinstatement of these vendors. Delegate meetings were held with officials. A protest was also organized to convey to the Kejriwal government the distress of the evicted vendors, but the Delhi government paid no heed. CPIML leaders also spoke to the RWA officials but to no avail. Then the organization was constrained to reinstall the shops which were forcibly taken down by the administration. This further fuelled the anger of the people and after a few days the shops were again installed. The police broke them down once again and arrested about a dozen people but a large number of people went to the Thana and set up a furor and secured the release of the arrested people. Twice thus the shopkeepers were released due to public anger, but they could not reinstall their shops. The need for a large people’s mobilization was felt in the face of the aggression shown by the administration, and the organization decided to step up public pressure. On 20 October 2019 a Rozgar March (March for Livelihood) and people’s protest meeting were organized for which local people were mobilized in large numbers. This put fear into the administration and RWA officials. The shops were reinstalled on 21 October 2019 and the people were willing to bear any repression to save their livelihoods; but the administration did not come to evict the shops that day and the police backed down in the face of public anger. However, the next day on 22 October the police came in large numbers, set upon the shopkeepers and arrested more than a dozen leaders and activists. This angered the people so much that they went to the Thana in huge numbers, surrounded the Thana and made them release their leaders and activists. The police and administration backed down when they saw the people’s outrage and agreed to talks. They asked for a day’s time to reinstate the livelihoods of the shopkeepers and the people agreed conditionally to give them one day’s time. The police gave them permission to reinstall their shops from 23 October 2019 at Mayur Vihar Phase-3 near CRPF camp. Thus, after 80-85 days of relentless struggle by the people, the administration had to bow down and the people secured this victory.

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