real benefit of liberalization is the dismantling of the
license-permit-quota raj. Thanks to self-defeating regulation,
the productive potential of a whole nation was laid waste.
With de-licensing, this productive potential has been unleashed.
But the de-licensing largely benefited the formal manufacturing
industry. True, manufacturing sector itself is facing a
grave crisis for several reasons, but it has been largely
liberated from the clutches of bureaucrats.
real problem lies in not tackling the continuing extortion
of the large segment of poor, self-employed workers. Only
28 million workers in India are in the organized sector,
of whom 19 million are government employees. 92% of all
the workers are in the unorganized, unprotected, self-employed
sectors. Liberalization process has not touched them at
all, and they continue to be in the clutches of license-quota
don't have to go far to understand the monumental human
tragedy this implies. Take Delhi city. The plight of cycle
rickshaw pullers and street vendors is a classic illustration
of the utter insensitivity of the Indian state and the rapacious
corruption and shameless extortion. There are an estimated
5 lakh street vendors and hawkers, and another 5 lakh cycle
rickshaw pullers in Delhi. Most of them are poor migrant
workers from rural UP and Bihar. These service-providers,
eking out a precarious livelihood by the sweat of their
brow in the nation's capital face endless harassment, humiliation,
indignity and worse. The continuing license-quota-raid raj
has left them at the mercy of extortionary babus and brutal
policemen, undermining their livelihoods and human rights.
studies by the Delhi-based Manushi indicate that the annual
corruption from street vendors, hawkers and rickshaw pullers
in Delhi alone is of the order of Rs500 crores! Despite
Supreme Court judgment in 1989 in the Sodhan Singh vs NDMC
case, in which the court declared hawking as a fundamental
right subject only to reasonable restrictions under Article
19 of the Constitution, vendors and hawkers are subjected
to regular terror tactics and brutal treatment. Out of the
5 lakh vendors, only a few thousand are licensed. Monthly
mamools of Rs500 to Rs2500 are collected from these vendors
and hawkers, apart from policemen picking up free from these
stalls and push carts whatever goods they fancy. If hawkers
resist paying bribes and 'protection money', they are routinely
beaten up and abused, and their goods and push carts are
seized, to be released only after collecting hefty bribes.
Often there is wanton destruction and irreparable loss.
At an average monthly bribe of Rs800 per vendor, the annual
bribe collections from 5 lakh vendors are a staggering Rs480
crores! Much of the money is collected through local gangsters
who act as touts. The result is not only brutalization and
extortionary corruption, but increasing criminalization.
estimated 5 lakh rickshaw pullers' plight is somewhat similar.
About 73000 rickshaws have been licensed, each for a bribe
of Rs300 to Rs600. The monthly protection money paid to
MCD for licensed and unlicensed rickshaws is Rs50 to Rs100.
In addition policemen collect mamools and haftas. Frequent
raids and seizures take place, allegedly to prevent unlicensed
rickshaws. Each seizure involves untold misery and exchange
of huge bribe. Altogether, nearly Rs100 crores is the annual
bribe collection from poor rickshaw pullers.
deserves our gratitude for unearthing these horrendous facts.
Recently Lok Satta and Manushi approached the Central Vigilence
Commissioner, Mr Vittal to end this extortion and he wrote
to Delhi Government asking them to dismantle the license-quota
raj. Let us hope the Delhi government will act quickly to
end this brutal corruption, and liberate the poor from the
clutches of the extortionary state machinery. There can
certainly be zoning restrictions and properly marked parking
places. But licensing, quotas, frequent raids, brutal treatment
and corruption are a disgrace to a civilized society. If
de-licensing only liberates the educated entrepreneurs,
and if the unorganized poor are at the mercy of the state
even to carry out their trade or business peacefully, then
economic reform has no meaning. If in Delhi the poor are
subjected to such untold suffering, we can only imagine
what is happening in the many other cities and towns.
the majority suffering such indignities, social harmony,
political stability, and economic growth will be merely
illusory. We have to recognize that the few rich cannot
be protected if the many poor are plundered. Will the Indian
establishment act with decency and good sense to liberate
the poor from the clutches of corrupt bureaucracy? Only
then can economic reform acquire real meaning and the poor
and unorganized sectors who constitute a vast majority will
be partners in economic growth.