The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour has suggested exploring the feasibility of converting the loan credit amount granted to street vendors under the PM-SVANidhi Scheme into a direct cash grant as livelihood support. This, the committee says, will help street vendors in India restart income activity post the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Pradhan Mantri Street Vendors’ Atma Nirbhar Nidhi (PM-SVANIDHI) scheme was launched in June 2020 allowing street vendors to avail working capital loan of Rs 10,000. The Rs 5000-crore stimulus was intended to benefit around 50 lakh street vendors whose livelihoods were massively hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These working capital loans under the PM-SVANIDHI scheme come with a 7 percent interest subsidy from the government with a one-year tenure to be repaid in monthly installments.
In its report on the 'Impact of Covid-19 on Rising Unemployment and Loss of Jobs/ Livelihoods in Organised and Unorganised Sectors’ that was tabled in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, the parliamentary committee noted that out of the 42.45 lakh loan applications received, 25.03 lakh applications have been sanctioned and Rs 2,130 crore has been disbursed to 21.57 lakh beneficiaries as on June 28, 2021. However, in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha, the government said on July 29 that 22.7 lakh loans worth over Rs 2,200 crore were disbursed to street vendors under the scheme.
This scheme was aimed at providing much-needed relief to lakhs of street vendors who lost their livelihood due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. Even as restrictions ease across the country, conversations with street vendors indicate that business is unlikely to pick up anytime soon and these vendors also allege facing issues with authorities in smoothly operating their daily business.
The Parliamentary committee also noted that special camps were being organised in Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) across the country with the secretary, ministry of housing and urban affairs instructing all the States/UTs and lending Institutions to organise special camps called ‘Sankalp se Sidhi’ from June 1 to August 15, 2021, where lending institutions are to make efforts to not only disburse all sanctioned applications but also sanction all the eligible pending applications.
Sanctioning and disbursal of these loans too haven’t been without hiccups. In some cases like in the shopping streets of Mumbai, many were unable to avail the scheme as they were classified as shops and not street vendors. Street vendors have also alleged hesitation among lending institutions, especially in the private sector to offer collateral-free loans to vendors. These institutions, on the other hand, have cited the fear of rising Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) since there is no collateral. Reports also suggest banks flagged this issue earlier this year that these loans were turning into NPAs, with little or no recourse in case of default because they were collateral-free in nature.
In its report, the committee has also said that there is still ignorance among a large number of street vendors about the provisions contained in the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regularisation of Street Vending) Act and recommended that information on transparency and active implementation of the provisions of the Act on which states and cities have made rules and issued certificates of vending, etc., should be made available publically and updated periodically on the ministry’s website and all the way down to the municipal level, wherever feasible.
"As a long term measure to mitigate the problems faced by the Street Vendors, the committee recommends that the vendors be accounted for during development work resulting in displacement and Street Vendors Associations be included in the Municipality Committees to ensure approval of infrastructure projects through a participatory process that accommodates the needs of all the stakeholders," it added.
In its report, the parliamentary committee also said the ministry of labour delayed in responding to the migrant crisis waiting for two months till June and being pulled up by the Supreme Court before writing to state governments before collecting data on migrant workers. It said the Centre or the states are not ‘doing a favour in the provision of welfare measures to the people in distress’ and are duty-bound urging the government to look at systemic improvements in implementing schemes.