Interview with Arbind Singh of the National Association of Street Vendors
of India (NASVI)
Street vendors were among the groups of workers in the informal
economy who were well represented in the ILC. ILO
COOP talked to Mr. Arbind Singh, the National Coordinator of The National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI).
What are the main problems street vendors are facing in India?
Ever since 2002, the National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI) has been working to create an enabling environment in the cities for street vendors. We got a National Policy for Street Vendors in 2004, which was revised in 2009, and then the act was passed in 2014. The main problems street vendors are facing at the moment include insecure business environment, lack of access to financial services in order to not depend on money lenders, and lack of social protection for them as well as other informal economy workers.
How do you work and engage with cooperatives?
We have been promoting financial services cooperatives among NASVI members for the last ten years. One of our cooperatives has been receiving great financial support from the Government. We are also promoting multi-purpose cooperatives across India.
Recently the act on street vendors was passed in India. How does this reflect your concerns on the issue, and what kind of role did you play in this process?
NASVI played a major role from raising the visibility of the issue on political fora and getting a court verdict, which ordered the passing of such an act. NASVI followed the legislation process at different stages, raising its voice when the process slowed down or the bureaucracy tried to dilute it. Ultimately we got an empowering act which incorporates almost 90 per cent of our demands. The act also integrates the numerous experiences we have had in the street vendor movement in getting the 2004 and 2009 policies passed and implemented across India.
You are using innovative ways to maintain contacts with your members, for instance through mobile technologies. Could you tell a little bit about that?
NASVI is providing banking services at affordable cost to street vendors who do not have access to the banking system due to many unwanted situations. Modern mobile technologies can be useful in these situations, and rural communities make up the fastest-growing market for mobile applications. The adoption rate for mobile phones has far outstripped that of personal computers, especially in India where the mobile phone has emerged as the de facto personal computer for people who live at the base of the pyramid. In short, cell phones are transforming the way people do business at all economic levels. NASVI is providing financial services, including savings and credit opportunities, for street vendors. NASVI is in the process of implementing a mobile technology for its cooperatives and members so that they can start addressing the gap and serving their members better. Currently NASVI representatives go out for collections and savings which involves a great deal of human resources costs. NASVI is working with a Technology Company to develop software with mobile application to serve cooperative members and to issue smart debit cards to cooperative members. The software is in the testing phase and it should be rolled out in the near future.