Securing, Leveraging and Sustaining POWER for Street Vendors of India

Monday, 16 July 2018: 10:40
Oral Presentation
Arbind SINGH, NASVI, India
Sachin KUMAR, Government College of Teacher Education, India
While street vendors have always been there providing goods and services to millions at an affordable rate on their doorsteps since time immemorial, erosion of the rural livelihood base, growing informalization and unabated urbanization suddenly increased their numbers in Indian cities in the 1990s. Despite the fact that these workers contribute significantly to the urban economy, they have faced and often continue to experience humiliation, continual harassment, confiscations and sudden evictions. It became imperative to advocate for their rights through the formulation of appropriate policies, the enactment of relevant laws, and the provision of adequate social protection benefits. The National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI) played a pivotal and catalytic role in transforming street vendors from non-entities to a formidable force to reckon with. Using the theoretical framework of power resources and capabilities, the paper aims to reflect on the process of this transformation. This paper is based on existing published works on the street vendors’ movement in India, a series of key informant interviews and a national consultation with stakeholders, the paper demonstrates that innovative organisational structures, distributive leadership approaches, andthe holistic understanding of the need of the vendors brought various social actors together which, in turn, developed associational power. A series of studies, media campaigns and advocacy activities advanced discursive power with the help of framing and learning capabilities which have helped to positively frame issues related to street vendors in the psyche of the public in general and policy makers in particular. Thus, increasing associational and societal power paved the path for establishing institutional power in the form of national policies such as the Street Vendors Act 2014. The paper sums key lesson learnt from NASVI’s journey.