While celestial beings do not claim special privileges on account of their divinity, human beings and even animals are allowed the possibility of being elevated to the divine through special acts of valour, tapasya , sacrifice or even bhakti . Example: Hanuman,
One essential tenet of Hinduism is that Shakti, the feminine energy, is believed to represent the primeval creative principle underlying the cosmos.She is the energizing force of every being and every thing.
The energy of god is feminine and without his Shakti even the most powerful devatas are dead.
Different forms and manifestations of this Universal Creative Energy are personified in a vast array of goddesses. She is worshipped under different names in different places and in different appearances as the symbol of life giving powers as well as the power to destroy creation itself. Lakhsmi, the Godess of wealth, Saraswati personifies wisdom and learning and is presiding deity of the arts and literature. Durga is the vanquisher of evil
Even though Goddess worship dates back to the Harappan culture of 3000 BC if not earlier, new forms and incarnations keep appearing all the time. The all powerful feminine force assumes diverse forms taking different avatars to fulfill diverse purposes at different times.
Bharat Mata ( Mother India) became a symbol of nationalist aspirations during the freedom movement and a Bollywood film of early 1970s started the cult of Santoshi Ma.
Every village in India has a gram devi or devata and new ones forever taking avatar .
Gram devatas are usually connected with acts of extreme piety but myths of gram devis tell us of ordinary women who rose in rage because they were sought to be ravished. They respond with terrible fury and avenge the insult. Their righteous rage has the potential to destroy the universe and thus elevates them to the status of the divine.
It is common to people of different religions to worship at each other’s sacred sites. India has a long tradition of spiritual leaders whose followings cut across religious, caste, and other divides. Example, Lal Ded of Kashmir. In the early censuses many recorded themselves as Hindu-Muslim. Indic culture and faith traditions unite people while modern “democratic” politics divides them. Sant Kabir-both Hindus and Muslims claim him as their own Characteristic Features…
The Story of the Avatar of Manushi Swachhanarayani The Broom Wielding Goddess of Good Governance and Social Justice who took avatar to lend support to our battle for policy reform work to free the livelihoods street vendors from extortionist mafias.
All over India around 10 million persons, plus their dependents, rely on street vending for their livelihood.
Number of vendors at any given location is in direct proportion to the footfall of customers and market demand for their services.
Vital Role of Street Vendors in the Economy Vendors not only create self employment at their own cost and enterprise but also give a boost to the farm sector and small scale industry by providing an efficient, low cost channel of distribution for their products.
A legitimate occupation declared illegal. As per India’s municipal laws it is unlawful to vend or hawk in the streets without a license. This is based on British municipal laws of 1820’s For decades municipal corporations all over India stopped issuing vending licenses. No. of vendors in Delhi: more than 300,000. Licenses issued: less than 3000. This situation prevails all over India.
The illegal status of vendors and unrealistic quotas on their numbers makes street vendors vulnerable to bribes, beatings and extortion. In Delhi alone the terror unleashed by the License-Quota-Raid-Raj for vendors leads to loss of income through bribes and confiscation of goods worth Rs 500 Crores per annum plus long periods of enforced idleness. Mumbai: Rs 400 crores
Supreme Court pronouncement in Sodan Singh and others Vs NDMC But the licensing procedures sanctified by the Supreme Court though well meaning are inherently flawed. They facilitate extortion rackets. “… the fundamental right of livelihood under Art 19(1)(g) of the Constitution cannot be denied to street /pavement hawkers,…”
Street Vendors Face Routine Assaults on Account of “Illegal Status”
An example of the farce under the guise of “Clearance Operations”
How did this happen?
Each vendor paid Rs. 2000 lump sum to the extortionist mafia which additionally upped the bribe rate by about Rs. 200 per month. Today, vendors pay between Rs.1500-2000 per month as “Protection Money” in this market and yet remain insecure.
The uprooted vendors are back to business on June 14, 2002
Municipal Corporation’s “Operation Ujaad” near Lodhi Colony, May 14, 2002
Routine Clearance Operation amount to Economic War on Poor Citizens
Anil Kumar and his brother sell two pathuras and a plate of chanas with pickle for Rs. 10. They start cooking at 4 a.m. By 7 a.m. they are ready to provide food to working poor living in nearby bastis. On an average, the brothers works nearly 16 hours a day. The bribes they have to pay are as follows: Police .…Rs. 1000 per month MCD health Inspector … . Rs. 400 per month MCD general Inspector .…Rs. 200 per month Another unnamed govt. official .…Rs. 100 per month MCD sweeper .…Rs. 60 per month or Rs. 2 a day. Total … .Rs. 1760 per month ( Figures collected in 2001) A Typical Example of Payoffs
Demoralisation, Loss of Capital and Erosion of Savings
A sample of the economic and political impact of a routine M.C.D. “raid” on the lives of vendors:
During a raid conducted on December 3, 2004, in which the local police participated, the following goods were confiscated under 20 different challans, one for every confiscated item, from two vendors one who runs a roadside food stall in Sewa Nagar and another who runs a cycle repair shop . The list reads as follows:
One rehdi • - one gas cylinder, 18 broken bamboos, one broken tin sheet • four saucepans, • one small kadahi, one pan • one wooden counter, one iron stool, • one board, • one broken bench one torn plastic sheeting • one plastic sheeting • one plastic sheeting • one wooden box • two bamboos • one box • one gas stove • one rehdi • one rehdi • one broken bench, one gas light,one wooden stool, some tools in a bag Fine demanded for return of goods : Rs. 19,000 Cost of starting business again for Meena : Rs. 8 to 10,000 Minimum loss of income for 25 days of enforced idleness: Rs. 4000 It takes days or weeks for a vendor whose wares have been confiscated to arrange for loans and start all over again Minimum fine required for release of one rehdi : Rs. 2100
Vendors on the run with their goods hastily packed in spread sheets as soon as they see police and municipal inspectors come to clear them. Those who can’t pack up and run fast end up having their goods confiscated to the accompaniment of beatings and abuses. Made to Feel Like Criminals
August 2001 , Prime Minister Vajpayee announces New Policy Framework for Street Vendors and Rickshaw Pullers in response to Manushi’s campaign
Let the laws of market demand and supply determine the number of vendors and rickshaws in the city rather than bureaucratic quotas.
The metropolis may be divided into “green”, “amber” and “red” zones, free access, fee based access and prohibited access, respectively.
There must be an absolute prohibition on municipal and police authorities from impounding, or destruction, or seizure, of goods and equipment, except when permitted under other laws.
Any person who wishes to be a street hawker may do so by a simple act of registration involving two steps: (a) reliable identification by any means and (b) payment of a nominal fee to cover costs for issue of a photo identification card.
Purpose of the registration is to provide reliable identification for the purposes noted above. It is not a permit to ply the trade. No such permit is needed.
A registered street hawker who wishes to operate in “amber” zone, may do so by paying a fee, upon which a sticker to the effect may be affixed on the registration id.
Numbers of street hawkers/cycle rickshaws in the “amber” zones may be regulated by adjustment of the amount of fee periodically. Penalties for plying in an “amber” zone without payment of fee may involve a financial penalty, in addition to the fee but in any case there must be an absolute prohibition on municipal and police authorities from impounding, or destruction, or seizure of goods and equipment.
The hawking fee may be scaled to different categories of street hawkers, e.g. those pushing carts or those using pedaled vehicles.Thus the number of vendors to be regulated by increasing the license fee rather than putting an unrealistic artificial ceiling on the numbers that can operate in the city.
Non-government organisations with a record of working for the welfare of these groups may be authorized to interface between them and the concerned authorities.
Central Government Adopts the National Policy for Street Vendors, 20th January 2004
Even while policy announced for Delhi vendors was being sabotaged, National Task Force for Street Vendors was set up by the Ministry of Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation in 2002. Member of this Task Force included Sewa Gujarat, Manushi, Hawkers Sangram Samiti of Kolkatta and Bombay Hawkers Union etc. This resulted in a National Policy for Street Vendors which was approved by the cabinet in January 2004. Key features of this policy are:
Lays down rules for ‘regulation’ instead of ‘prohibition’ of street vending. Licensing to be replaced by a simple registration process.
Recommends adoption of a system of registration of hawkers and non-discretionary regulation of access to public spaces in accordance with the planning standards and nature of trade/service.
Setting up of Town Vending Committees with representation of street vendor organisations and by other stake holders. These committees are to regulate street vending.
Based on decision of Town Vending Committee, Ward Committees to allocate specific places as vending sites.
Lays down guidelines for evictions. Street vendors can be evicted only if the land is needed for explicit public purpose and not just for beautification. It also states that if vendors are evicted, they should be simultaneously rehabilitated to restore their livelihood to previous level.
Access to credit and insurance has been stressed as also water and sanitation.
Emphasis has also been given on self-governance and organising.
The policy also calls for amendments in police and other laws which are archaic and are being misused by officials to harrass and collect hafta .
Despite Supreme Court judgements requiring that each city set up hawking zones and despite the announcement of Prime Minister’s New Policy for Street Vendors in 2001 and a National Policy for Street Vendors in 2004, no city government has yet taken concrete steps to implement this policy. a
Reasons offered by officials for non-action on this issue:
Hawkers bring chaos, squalor and cause obstructions for other road users.
Legalizing their existence will mean rewarding illegal encroachments on “ government land”.
Such old fashioned bazaars ought to be got rid of and replaced with modern shopping complexes.
Cities will be flooded with vendors if life is made easier for them in cities. So many vendors cannot be accommodated without causing a total civic breakdown.
Making vendors operate in a chaotic manner is a deliberate strategy of bribe collecting officials because they use this to justify “Clearance Operations”.
The number of hawkers in any given place depends on the number of customers needing their services.
Clearance Operations have not reduced their numbers.
Illegal status of vendors makes them easy targets of exploitation.
Vendors provide vital distribution network of consumer goods at affordable prices and convenient locations for ordinary citizens.
Vendors not only create self employment but also give a boost to the farm sector and small scale industry by providing an efficient, channel for their products.
If people are obstructed from creating gainful self employment, they will be forced to take to crime.
The Ground Reality
A Fa csimile of the Memb ership oath signed by all vendors Model Vendor Market: An Exercise in Self Governance To combat official prejudice Manushi offered to take responsibility to show by example how vendors can be accommodated in the city in an aesthetic and orderly manner. We raised funds, hired a team of architects and submitted a detailed plan of action to MCD which included the following responsibilities:
Vendors sign an oath that they will observe civic discipline and maintain cleanliness by contributing towards the salary of Cleaning Brigade.
Each vendor to pay a monthly rent of Rs 390 to the MCD tharough Manushi.
Commitment on oath from them to keep within a consensually agreed “ Sanyam Rekha ” or Line of Self Discipline.
Hawkers who do not observe this discipline are fined Rs. 100 per violation of Line of Discipline .
Promise not to settle any disputes through violence. Instead resolve all conflicts through dialogue in general body meetings.
Get written commitment on oath from each hawker of the Pilot Project that he/she will not put up any unauthorized permanent structure on the pavements.
Pay for legal water and electricity connections instead of buying these services from local mafias.
Manushi to take charge of improvement and up gradation of the physical infrastructure of the Pilot Project area, including pavements, boundary walls, parks, stalls.
Supreme Court Sanction for Model Market Project In order to protect this work from likely sabotage, the Municipal Commissioner approached the Supreme Court to allow the M.C.D. to undertake two pilot projects, one at Sewa Nagar and the second near CGO complex Extracts from the Order issued by the Supreme Court giving the go-ahead for two Pilot Projects – in Sewa Nagar and opposite CGO Complex April 2003 “… The implementation of any policy or project, howsoever well-motivated it may be, depends on the bona fides and whole-hearted faithful implementation by the agencies involved in the execution. We only hope and trust that such projects and policies shall not be shadowed by corruption and red-tapism which, unfortunately, has become the order of the day…”
Vendors pay Rs 3000-4000 per month by way of rent to local political mafia that claim ownership of these stalls by illegal occupation.
Letting vendors operate in a chaotic manner is a deliberate strategy of to justify “Clearance Operations” which keeps the terror alive for extracting bribes.
The Chaotic Conditions under which Vendors Operate
The State of Sewa Nagar Market before Manushi Took Charge Vendors occupied and wasted huge amounts of space in all the lanes and roads surrounding Sewa Nagar residential blocks. As this scene shows, the vendors are right on the road leaving nearly 12 feet space behind their stalls.
…… Before Manushi Took Charge Vendors who were able to pay bigger bribes, were allowed to occupy huge spaces bang on the road- often measuring 20 ft. by 12-15 ft. thus causing road congestion.
We Draw up a Sanyam Rekha—Line of Self Discipline First Step Towards Self Governance
Enforcing Civic Discipline A penalty of Rs. 100 for each violation of the Sanyam Rekha. Membership of habitual violators is suspended till they make amends and sign a new pact.
Taking Charge of Maintaining Cleanliness The salaries of Manushi Safai Brigade come from contributions by vendors with each vendor paying Rs. 30 or 50 per month depending on the amount of garbage they generate.
The Start of Broom Worship Worship of the Broom as a deity introduced on December 19, 2001 as a standard ritual in all Manushi Sangathan meetings to inculcate a sense of respect for cleanliness, so lacking in India's civic life. The Broom Deity slowly acquired the form of a full fledged Goddess – Manushi Swacchnarayani.
Cleaning one’s physical environment is as sacred a duty of every citizen
Cleansing our system of governance of corruption and abuse of power has to be performed as a sacred social mission going beyond personal self interest.
Inculcates self respecting habits, including ridding vendors of petty rivalries and abusive behavior which allow touts to flourish
Represents the strength that comes from unity and the power of the individual as a member of a group come together to create order and withstand chaos.
To drive home the message that Each stick that constitutes the broom is by itself weak and can be easily broken into pieces. However, when the same sticks are tied together for a common purpose, they cannot be broken except by pulling them apart. By coming together, they transform themselves into a useful and indispensable tool for healthy living.
The Many Meanings of Broom Worship
A group of fish vendors taking oath that they will solve their internal conflicts peacefully through dialogue rather than involve the police or local touts to settle scores. Vendors celebrating the festival of the Goddess by ritual worship of girls.
After making 6’x6’ ft. stalls there is a 5 ft. wide pavement for pedestrians Park fronts cleared of encroachments and made available as beautiful public spaces Road space wider by 10 ft. than before so vehicular traffic can move without needless obstructions. Legitimate needs of all road users kept in mind
New Stalls at Sewa Nagar Balancing aesthetics and functionality Readymade garment sellers are now limited to 6ft x 6 ft space with 5 ft wide pavement. Vendors are not allowed to encroach on pavements.
Then … Vendors occupied and wasted huge amounts of space in all the lanes and roads surrounding Sewa Nagar residential blocks. As this scene shows, the vendors are right on the road leaving nearly 12 feet space behind their stalls. New fruit stalls designed by Manushi. Each vendor paid for his/her own stall. and Now…
State of Park Fronts before Manushi Took Charge The clutter, squalor and encroachments outside a Sewa Nagar park. A tempo stand and two roomed office of tempo owners who used to put a board outside their office of whichever party came to power in front of the west side park in the project area.
Manushi Developed Park Plazas Two encroached park fronts were cleared by Manushi without the use of police force to create spaces for rest and recreation.
A view of Swachhnarayani Mandir built with contributions from vendors to reinforce the message that maintaining cleanliness and civic discipline are SACRED DUTIES of all citizens. Swachhnarayani Mandir in the west side park plaza For an account of the “Emergency Avatar of Manushi Swachhnarayani.” Click here
The Extortionist Mafia Strikes Back The High Court did not grant a stay order. But the mafia has kept filing additional complaints on bogus grounds to drag on the case. The case is pending adjudication. Even while the case was going on, their terror tactics did not stop. Their main grouse: Manushi did not yield to the demand that we allot number of stalls to them. In this Operation Sabotage, they received full support from influential national as well as local level politicians of both national parties. From the day the pilot project was sanctioned, local politicians who are part of the bribe collecting mafia unleashed a reign of terror. They beat up our members, destroyed the project property repeatedly, threatened us with dire consequences. In addition to goonda tactics, they petitioned the High Court in January 2005 for a stay order against the pilot project
Reasons for Repeated Assaults on the Pilot Project
After being given legal status, vendors resist paying bribes.
After cleaning and beautification of the area the black market value of the stalls rose dramatically.
They cannot anymore be treated as captive vote banks.
Manushi refused to succumb to the pressure of the mafia into giving each of them a certain number of stalls.
Some of them have long criminal records and are undergoing trials for serious offences, including murder, kidnapping, sexual assault harassment and fraud. These criminal elements attach themselves to whichever party is in power. That gives them added clout with the police.
A New Goddess Takes Avatar! On 12th March 2005 Manushi Swacchanarayani chose Sewa Nagar hawker market as her abode because we were unable to cope with the violence and threats of the local mafia which attacked our members and threatened them with physical harm if they continued their participation in the self governance project.
The Many Powers of Swacchnarayani Swacchanarayani represents many qualities and powers typified by the symbols she holds in her hands. These are:
A broom to symbolize our respect for cleanliness of the physical environment as well as our resolve to cleanse the government machinery of corruption.
A clock to emphasize the need to change with changing times and remove all the archaic colonial laws imposed on our people.
A coin placed in the palm of the Goddess held in abhay mudra to communicate our resolve that citizens are allowed to earn a dignified livelihood without fear, harassment and extortion.
A weighing-balance symbolizing our commitment to social justice.
A movie camera , as our weapon to fight assaults on vendors since a large part of the success of our campaign for policy and law reform for street vendors was due to our recording on videotape the human rights violations of vendors and using the documentary film we made on street vendors as a tool of campaign and lobbying.
A diya (earthen lamp) to symbolize the dispelling of darkness and bringing hope for the poor and vulnerable.
A calculator as a symbol of our honest account keeping and resolve to make all financial dealings of this project available on a notice board as well as our website.
A pen as a symbol of wisdom and learning.
A conch shell symbolizing purity and transparency as well as a clarion call for self organization of citizens.
A stalk of barley to symbolize multiplication of wealth as well as the spread of our message. Just as one seed can produce unlimited number of grains, so also we hope that this pilot project will show the way for numerous more such initiatives.
The Goddess stands on a lotus flower to convey how we are attempting to create beauty out of squalor.
While our goddess has Durga like ability to battle tyrants, none of the weapons and symbols associated with her have violent or bloody overtones. While the foremost symbol of Swachha Narayani is the broom representing her creative energy to cleanse wrong doing, she is as much the goddess of self discipline – the power of the individual as a member of a group to create order and withstand chaos.
Our next battle: combating the demon of “untouchability” and caste prejudice
The Battle gets Life Threatening The Mafia Takes Over Stalls through Violence and Fraud As the Sewa Nagar market neared completion, the mafia found yet another way of taking over the stalls. Some of them act as local moneylenders who give loans to local vendors at an extortionist rate of interest ranging from 60% to 120 % per annum. They illegally took over the stalls of indebted vendors. One of the gang leaders One of the sealed stalls In January 2007 Manushi and MCD sealed stalls taken over illegally by the mafia. The mafia responded with violent attacks and beat out several project members out of the market. Manushi staff were also beaten up, robbed and prevented from working in the area. Since these criminal elements have police and political support and belong to a powerful community in the neighboring village. Therefore, vendors are terrified of standing up to them.
Attempts to Take Over Temple of Swachhnarayani The criminal mafia has also hatched a dangerous plan to take over the Swachhnarayani temple built with contributions of vendors as well as donations from Manushi friends. To achieve this end they are doing their best to foment communal and caste conflict. Local mafia creating a ruckus in front of Swachhnarayani Mandir. through Divisive Politics We Rename Her Mother India who is a symbol of composite, inclusive nationalism. For a Mother all children are equal, Hindu Muslim, Christian, Bahaii, Buddhist or whatever. She will carry a copy of the Indian Constitution in one of her hands once the temple is formally inaugurated after things settle down,