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Unearthing discrepancies in the informal sector
Almost 90 per cent of India’s manpower earns its livelihood in the informal sector. Some CPPR interns unearth startling discrepancies in this sector in Amritsar alone, where a cobbler pays rupees 1,000 to get an NOC from the municipal town planners.

DID YOU know that a barber in Amritsar (Punjab) does not require a licence to open a shop, whereas a cobbler in the same city has to pay rupees 1,000 to obtain just a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the municipal town planners? And, that a dhaba (eatery) owner in the same city has to obtain an NOC from his neighbours as well as from the departments of municipal town planner (MTP), the fire brigade, house tax and water supply and sewerage before he can apply for a licence?

These facts were revealed by the Law, Liberty and Livelihood Project, a study conducted by think-tanks of the Centre for the Public Policy Research (CPPR) and the Centre for Civil Society (CCS).

The study, which was aimed at documenting the livelihood regulations and entry level barriers in the informal sector, was conducted in 63 cities across India with the help of young interns.

In Amritsar, the study was conducted by Sir Dorabji Tata Trust (SDTT). The purpose was to unveil the laws applicable to entry-level professionals like cycle-rickshaw pullers, mobile and stationery street vendors and to document these to create public awareness on issues faced by them. The study is funded by SDTT, Mumbai.

Before digging deep into the findings of the survey, here is a summary of how a licence is obtained in Amritsar. The municipal town planners charge rupees 1,000 from traders for issuing a no-objection certificate. After the submission of this certificate, the Punjab Municipal Corporation (PMC) issues the licence, which has to be renewed every year before April 30. The procedure for cobblers, dhaba owners and meat shop owners is the same.

Several surprising aspects were unearthed during the survey. For instance, the NOC from the fire brigade has to be obtained as per the provisions of ISI-2190 and the National Building Code (NBC), under which, the building plan must be submitted and the premises must be verified physically by 15 officers.

To the astonishment of the interns, none of the officers had a copy of the required guidelines in hand and, it seems, that they had obtained one from the fire department of some other city.

It was also found that there is a vast difference between the fee for the NOC and the licence. While the certificate costs rupees 1,000, the latter costs anywhere between rupees 50-200, depending on the trade.

For cycle-rickshaws, the story was entirely different. Here, the puller is issued a token number and a licence/permit with his photograph on it. The conditions for this licence are that the puller must be a healthy person, the rickshaw must have a bell and a roof, and it must have a mudguard on its rear tyre and a reflector at the back for safety at night. The application for a licence has to be accompanied by two photographs that are attested by a councillor or an MLA, or a gazetted officer. A medical fitness certificate from an MBBS doctor is also mandatory.

Interestingly, other than the above mentioned criteria, no other city permit is required and there is no restriction on the number of cycle-rickshaws at a particular time. Nevertheless, if a cycle-rickshaw puller is caught without a valid licence, his rickshaw is locked up and released only after a clearance from the department.

As studies reveal, over 90 per cent of Indias work force earns its livelihood in the informal sector, which accounts for 63 per cent of the countrys GDP. As citizens of India, its high time we knew how things function in our country. Gone are the days of oblivion and ignorance.

Keeping this in mind, the project aimed at informing the public about the functioning of these trades and related aspects. With available documents relating to legal and governing factors, and with, the power of the Right to Information Act (RTI), the interns dug out details that would otherwise have not been known.

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