Organization: Center for Civil Society
Project Name: Jeevika App: Making a Living on the Street
Private Sector Solutions ✓
System Change ✓
Empowerment of Individuals ✓
Street vending is a low-cost enterprise and a primary source of livelihood for almost 2% of India’s urban population. Despite being ubiquitous, the economic and property rights of vendors are often at risk of abuse from government authorities. They live under the constant threat of eviction, seizure of their goods, and arbitrary fines. Approaching lawyers in every case of confiscation or eviction is costly. Harassment of vendors is rampant due to a lack of legal awareness, a systematic record of harassment data, and proper legal enforcement.
Vendors’ right to livelihood is at the forefront of governmental discourse, as acknowledged by India’s Prime Minister, and Centre for Civil Society (CCS) has managed to build its reputation as the ‘go-to’ civil society organization for issues related to vendor livelihoods. CCS is currently developing a comprehensive mobile application (the Jeevika App) to ensure legal empowerment of vendors and to bridge information gaps through technology. The Jeevika App will become a one-stop access for vendors in Delhi by (a) creating a legal aid and SOS platform that will connect vendors to law students or lawyers in case of harassment; (b) enabling street vendors to geo-tag themselves for verifying their property rights claims; and (c) collating data on harassment and generating heat maps. This project aims to provide tools for street vendors to defend their rights and fight harassment. The empowerment of vendors will ultimately deter public officials from abusing their powers.
For over two decades now, CCS has championed the economic freedom and right to earn a dignified livelihood for the poorest of poor in the informal sector, such as the street vendors in India, a vulnerable group of nano-entrepreneurs. CCS has won the 2021 Asia Liberty Award and the 2021 Templeton Freedom Award for its work on street vendor livelihoods. The government of India, through its Parliamentary Standing Committee on Urban Development, acknowledged and accepted the recommendations proposed by CCS on protecting the rights of street vendors.
CCS has recorded instances of street vendors standing up to judicial officials, representing their cases in the court, and mitigating harassment while proactively working to make them legally aware of their rights and the law. Through a methodical identification of stakeholders and dissemination, the Jeevika App will positively impact the business landscape for street vendors in India. If the application is successful, then (a) the number and severity of harassment cases and extortion of street vendors will reduce; and (b) policymakers will speedily and comprehensively rectify legal barriers. As some vendors become empowered to fight against harassment, they will inspire others to do the same. The project will eventually help improve the prosperity, freedom, and dignity of street vendors in India. Once the issue of harassment is addressed, it will help the urban poor to work their way out of poverty.