Adequate and time bounded legal support is considered as last resort to protect rights and dignity of any citizen. Also, if prevalent legal and administrative mechanism suffers from any limitation or inadequacy it needs strong and collective voice to advocate for suitable ramifications. Today, like any other administrative arrangement which ideally claimed to be for the entire population of the Indian state, convenience of judicial services often found to be non- accessible among the poor and weaker sections of the society. Today, for easy accessibility of various legal protection provisions and to voice against the inherent limitations within the existing legal arrangements, weaker section needs systematic legal aid and advocacy intervention on sustainable manner. Nidan within its holistic approach of empowerment and development renders momentous importance to legal aid and advocacy work.
Issues like police -harassment, pestering by anti social elements, inadequate, untimely or nonpayment of wages, exploitation at work place including gender empathy and sudden raids to evict vendors from their business spots and seizure of their selling goods requires regular legal aid in order to amicably tackle these problems. Nidan with its legal aid services has taken reasonability to do so. Action programme like public meetings, demonstrations/ dharna, rally, petition, submission of memorandum are regularly organized in order to ensure peaceful working environment. Panel of lawyers have been engaged at district level to assist victim workers.
Once informal sector workers get unionized in form of a registered organization they can avail better protection against the various kind of exploitations under the law of land. Also, in comparison of an individual worker their organizational profile gives them better collective bargaining power to negotiate their rights in much effective manner and enhances their accessibility to various social security schemes.
This all puts direct impact on women’s role and status in positive manner affirming their recognition in social and economic milieu of society.
Some women member found to be more confident and articulate, although overall women folk considered to be less aware and vocal than their male counterparts. But, with the regular advocacy work by these small organizations under the leadership of Nidan, even women workers are now more organized towards their rights. The physical attacks on these workers and unwarranted arrests have become negligible. Also, since now they do not need to bribe police and administration employees which has significantly enhanced their annual saving. Additionally, efforts are being carried to organize the rural workers into associations.
Different booklet and handbook on situation of unorganized sector workers, women and children have been published. These handbooks details various legal provisions for the unorganized workers like street vendors, construction workers etc. Some of booklet refers to various legislations and statutory provisions for the protection of labourers including female workers. Various IEC materials have been also developed to sensitize workers towards various rights and schemes.
Nidan also conducts and facilitates various capacity building activities for unorganized sector labourers on issues related to their life and living- domestic violence, right to avail services from police department, basic legal formalities like FIR filing, provisions and procedure for workman compensation, Minimum wages, Constitution and Fundamental rights, Child rights, Right to Information etc.
Nidan also endeavors for policy specific interventions for urban street vendors with its continuous advocacy campaigns. Strategically any campaign work requires effective networking of related stakeholders to put collective efforts towards common goals. Our efforts to mobilize other concerned organizations on a common platform have resulted into formation of a strong network numerous organizations. This network advocates for better policies and programs for the informal workers in form of Comprehensive Social Security. Nidan carried vigorous campaign and lobby work for the immediate implementation of national policy on street vendors and now there are strong indications that National Policy on Urban Street Vendors will get enforce soon.
Nidan campaign and advocacy work interfaces Govt. representatives, MLAs, Policy makers, administrators, planners, police officials and street vendors with activities like seminars, workshops, dialogue, consultations etc.
Few Pubic Interest Litigation ( PILs ) have been also filed for the protection of rights of street vendors and with our continuous lobbying with MLAs, questions related to rights of street vendors have been raised into State assembly. Shramik Mahotsava is being organized to mobilize informal workers at a common platform and strengthen their voice and visibility. Every year thousands of members participate in these Shramik Mahotsava.
It’s only because of collective advocacy work at Phulwarisarif Nagar Panchayat in Patna district, State Govt. canceled Contract system in regard of urban street vendor and later similar step was taken by Patna Municipal Corporation. This resulted severe opposition from contractor lobby using their political nexus and power clout to prevent these democratic steps. Still, ultimately with people’s strong resolve for change these contractors withdrew their resistance and around 5000 street vendor benefited with this struggle. Similarly, at Mithapur locality at Patna, 287 street vendors were evicted from their vending place due to some construction work. Nidan raised this issue and after a long deliberation with Patna Municipal Corporation and District Administration, all evicted vendors were rehabilitated at Karbighaiya area. Also, work of Identity card cum license for local vendors has been started at Phulwarisarif area in July 2008.
It has been more than 14 years since Bihar government passed Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act 1996, still as per the provisions of this law, Bihar Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board is being still not constituted. Apart from constitution of the Board, Nidan is making all efforts to also ensure adequate representation of workers in the board. Nidan envisages that once the Board will be formed, Nidan will work with the Department of Labour for awareness generation among the target population about the board and its mandate, ensuring people’s participation in board functioning and organizing enrollment drives. At present Nidan advocacy work involves strong liaison with Child Labour Programme (DHAWA DAL), Labour department in the four districts of Bihar (Patna, Vaishali, Samastipur and Katihar).
In the year 2006-07 Nidan established its office set-up and recruited few personnel in Delhi. In the initial phase of Delhi level operations with the migrant workers, issue of street vendors emerged a major area of concern. Delhi as any metro city typically caters large number of migrant workers who earn their livelihood through street vending employment. Nidan has already started its work for the mobilization of hawkers in order to organize them as organization. Nidan has coordinated demonstration on rights of vendors, initiated lobbying with the public representatives and also participated in the legal proceedings in the Supreme Court. In September- October 2007 the Municipal Corporation of Delhi invited application for issuing license from all the street vendors of Delhi, Nidan’s continuous campaign work in Delhi has played crucial role towards this positive development.