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Strengthening Northeast's link
A study, called the Law, Liberty and Livelihood project, was conducted recently by think-tanks. It was aimed at documenting the livelihood regulations and entry-level barriers in the informal sector of 63 cities across India

PRIME MINISTER Manmohan Singh on July 2 unveiled a roadmap to spur all-round development of the Northeast region by 2020 and announced the linking of all state capitals in the region by rail and road to ensure better connectivity. This will no doubt be beneficial to the state of Assam as well, the capital Guwahati. It is the largest city and the hub of the North Eastern region of India. All states in the Northeast are connected to the rest of the country through Guwahati.

A study, called the Law, Liberty and Livelihood project, was conducted recently by think-tanks Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR) and Centre for Civil Society (CCS). It was aimed at documenting the livelihood regulations and entry-level barriers in the informal sector of 63 cities across India. The study was done with the help of young interns. In Guwahati, it was carried out by Pinky Hazarika

It was aimed at unveiling the laws applicable to entry-level professions like cycle-rickshaw pullers, mobile and stationery street vendors and to document them with an effort to create public attention to issues faced by them. The study is funded by the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust (SDTT), Mumbai. The sectors chosen for the study in Guwahati are:Dhabas (food courts), vegetable carts, barbers, meat shops and machine boats.

The licensing of trades in Guwahati is regulated by the Guwahati Municipal Corporation under purview of the Guwahati Municipal Corporation Act 1971 and related bylaws. The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act 1954 is also applicable in food-related trades.

For property tax and trade licence purposes, the corporation area is divided into four zones. According to the Act, any person carrying on any trade, profession or calling in Guwahati needs to obtain a trade licence from the corporation. The forms for these are available in their respective zonal revenue offices. To make it easier for those willing to take up ordinary trades and professions, the Corporation issues a provisional trade licence. The filled application will then be sent to the deputy commissioner of the respective zones immediately. The required documents are an agreement with the landlord in case of a rented house, tax payment receipt, a no-objection certificate for building, a partnership deed and house rent receipt.

According to the Act, every person should procure a licence before April 1 or within one month of the commencement of the trade.Interestingly,the commissioner has the right to refund the fees if he feels that the trade has not been exercised for more than six consecutive months. And, if a person is unable to pay the fees, the Commissioner has the right to exempt him from the same, declaring that that particular person is entitled to get a licence under a lower class than that under which he is chargeable. This gives scope to a financially weaker person to also start a trade of his choice. The validity of the licence is only for one year. If a licence is not renewed in due time, then 20 per cent of the fees will be charged as penalty.

Another interesting aspect about the licensing in Guwahati is the fact that the Act also allows the commissioner to grant a licence to a person for a previous year in which the person had no licence. This will be done on payment of the requisite fees. However, this particular provision does not allow one to challenge the authorities’ power, if caught without a licence.The fees for each trade are fixed by the Corporation, which, by notification in the Official Gazette, can be increased.

Section 180 of the Act also says that the Commissioner may, by written notice, ask the owner or occupier of any building or place of business to forward it to him within seven days, a list signed by such owner or occupier of the names of all persons exercising or carrying on any professions or trade.

To maintain law and order in the city, the Act prescribes certain rules for those undertaking various trades. One is that no person shall store or keep any article which is prescribed as dangerous, offensive or likely to create nuisance or carry on any trade, which is prescribed as dangerous, except under the provisions of the Act. Section 276 stresses that the carrying of any of the prescribed trade or any trade which is dangerous in the opinion of the commissioner requires a licence.  Moreover, no person can hold auction of any article in any municipal limit, without written permission of the Commissioner. Hawkers are not allowed to sell anything, except by permission of the Commissioner.  Even advertisements or exhibitions of any nature are not allowed without permission. Another rule is that no trader can keep or expose for sale fish or meat on raised paved platforms and at places set apart from the municipal market. He is also not allowed to carry meat in a market unless it properly covered. A very interesting rule is that meat and vegetables can not be sold in the same shop.

Dhabas, vegetable sellers and meat shops, in particular, are supposed to follow the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act 1954 in addition to the Corporation Act. The procedure for obtaining a licence is the same as mentioned above. The licence received by the trader has to be affixed in some conspicuous place at or near the entrance of the shop. When a licence has been refused or withheld as aforesaid, the Commissioner will send a notice of such refusal, which also has to be affixed in some conspicuous place in the shop. Barber shops also have the same procedure, except for those set by the Food Adulteration Act.

Now, those applying for a licence to run a machine boat are regulated by the Department of Inland Water Transport under the purview of the Inland Vessels Act 1917. According to the Act, an inland vessel means a mechanically propelled vessel which ordinarily plies on any inland water, including any canal, river, lake or other navigable water. A machine boat is an inland vessel.

Two licences are required one for the same: An ownership licence to ply and the engine driver permit. Once a person gets an ownership licence from the Inland Water Transport (IWT) department, he is required to undergo training in the Crew-training Centre of the department. On completion of the same, the driver licence is given to him. If the applicant is already trained, then he is asked to take an examination. If he passes the exams, he gets the permit. As per the provisions made under the Act, a Certificate of Competency is issued to the engine driver by the Director, IWT & Chief Ship Surveyor, Assam. These licences are valid for one year.

The documents needed to ply a mechanised boat are: Registration certificate of the boat, a survey/fitness certificate issued by the Director, IWT and Chief Ship Surveyor, Assam, the driver’s permit and permit of the haliman, who is the controller of the boat.

For the registration of the boat, the applicant has to submit the prescribed form to the Director, IWT, and Chief Ship Surveyor, Assam, with a signature of the magistrate and a challan of the prescribed fees. A certificate of survey will then be given to the applicant. The registration is normally renewed after one year. If delayed, the documents are declared invalid. The survey certificate also has to be renewed every year.

As per section 55(1) of the Act, the owner and master of the vessel shall each be punishable with a maximum fine of Rs 1,000, along with cancellation of the licence/permit, if they are found violating the prescribed rules. Moreover, any person acting as the master or driver during a voyage without having the said certificate of competency can be fined a maximum of Rs 500.

The result of this study is an easy-to access website providing details about the concerned laws and legislations.  To know more about the project and the survey in your city, check out the following websites: and

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