Coronavirus in Mumbai: Street vendors "unorganised", cannot be allowed to resume, state govt tells Bombay HC
BL Soni

Adding to the woes of small vendors and hawkers, the Maharashtra government on Tuesday informed the Bombay High Court that it has no plans yet to allow such street vendors to carry out their usual business, especially in the present scenario. The government said that allowing vendors could increase the risk of spread of the pandemic since it is an "unorganised" sector.

 A bench of Justices Amjad Sayed and Makarand Karnik ordered the government to spell out its stand on an affidavit. The bench was dealing with a PIL filed by one Manoj Oswal seeking permissions for street vendors to carry out their usual business as they are among the worst hit by the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown.

 Oswal, in his plea, claimed that street vendors have a "hand to mouth" existence and are facing the worst time as they have had no source of livelihood for the last few months.

 During the course of the hearing, Oswal pointed out that the government has decided to permit hotels and lodges to resume business, but has not taken any decision yet for vendors.

 Appearing for the state, advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni informed the judges that the government has not taken any decision for resuming hotels yet. 

 "We are in the process of unlocking. Hotels are yet to be permitted. We are finalizing the guidelines under which the hotels would be functioning henceforth. And it must be noted that regulating hotels would be easy as that is an organised sector," Kumbhakoni told the judges.

 "But in comparison to them, vendors are unorganised and regulating them would be much more difficult for the authorities. I can say that allowing vendors could increase the risk of spread of the virus," the AG added.

 Noting the submission in his orders, Justice Sayed said, "The AG states that the street vendors are an unauthorised sector and there is no mechanism to regulate them and there is no policy presently contemplated to permit them to sell their products/food in the present scenario of outbreak of COVID-19. Let the stand of state government be put on an affidavit-in-reply, which shall be filed before the next

date."

 The bench adjourned the hearing for two weeks.

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