Street vendors wary of Centre’s scheme

Bangalore BBMP City Top Story

Out of the 41,403 vendors who have applied to the PM Svanidhi scheme, only 8522  have received the amount. They say that they get pushed around from one office to another.

Bengaluru: For the past two months, Munilaxmi has been going to the State Bank of India (SBI) office in Kumara Park every other day. The roadside flower seller first heard about the PM SVANidhi scheme for street vendors through the local television channels. Crushed by the pandemic, she wanted to avail its benefits and rushed to the local SBI branch, who then asked her to go to the main branch to fill out the form. Nothing has materialised so far.

Out of the 250 applications that she and her co-vendors filled, only three have been sanctioned by the banks so far, she said.

As of March 9, the dashboard showed that only 8552 vendors of the 41,403 who applied for this scheme in Bangalore received the money. Another 16,002 loans have been sanctioned, but are in process.

The status of the PM SVANidhi scheme as on March 9, 2020. Source: PM SVANidhi dashboard

In June 2020, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs kick started the PM Street Vendor’s AtmaNirbhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi) scheme to empower street vendors. Under this, a street vendor can avail a collateral-free loan of up to Rs. 10,000 for a year. They pay back in Equated Monthly Installments (EMI).

“There are many street vendors like Munilaxmi”, said Rangaswamy. As the President of the Karnataka BeedhiBadhiVyaapariSanghatanegalaOkkuta, he has found that banks are not supportive of the street vendors. “If a vendor has a good turnover, they give the loan. Otherwise, if they find any incidence of check-bounce or non-payment of loan instalment, they stop the sanctioning of the loan.”

Mr Hadagali Arun Kumar, the nodal officer-in-charge of SVANidhi, Karnataka explained that despite this scheme being a central government’s initiative, the banks are taking time to sanction the loans. Even the Bruhat Bengaluru MahanagaraPalike (BBMP),which is supposed identify the street vendors and ensure the applications are submitted, is not doing it quickly enough.

“At the end of the day, only when the number of disbursed loans go up, would vendors be encouraged to apply more and would come forward themselves,” he added.

The Special Commissioner (Welfare) of the BBMP however, differs. Raveendra S.G said that the BBMP has already distributed 73,760 forms, out of which 43,905 have been collected back. The difference in these numbers is due to the hesitancy amongst street vendors.

“Whenever they (officers) go to collect the forms, the street vendors are not there. Some of the vendors are not ready to fill the form and some, whose forms have already been submitted, are asking for their names to be cut as they have realized the time the banks are taking,” he said. He added that some vendors thought that Rs. 10,000 was inadequate.

The reality for Jabraram, a street vendor right outside the BBMP Main Office where Raveendra S.G sits, is drastically different. For the past two years, the migrant from Rajasthan has had the shop at this exact spot where he sells screen guards for smartphones. Fifteen days ago a woman from the BBMP office told him about this scheme and asked him to keep his documents ready. Since then, he hasn’t seen the lady.

“The madam did not explain the entire situation to me and just asked me to get my Aadhar and passbook. I have been carrying this for the past 15 days now, but she has not returned yet. I tried going to the BBMP office but I didn’t get very far. They sent me from one place to another. And, then I found that the manager was on leave for the past fortnight. ,” he said.

The Assistant General Manager of Canara Bank, Malleswaram, Main Branch, Aradhana Trivedi, said that the banks have been fairly consistent in their work and the street vendors are at fault. “Whoever applies for the scheme, don’t show up for taking the loans. The loans aren’t paid because it requires one-day physical presence. We are setting up camps on the weekends to go to the people directly,” she said.

“The problem with these camps is that nobody knows about their existence, said Suresh Kadarshan, who works with Janpahal NGO that works on labour and employment rights.

“On last Saturday morning (February 27) they rounded up a few people and conducted the camps. There was no previous information given. Also, all vendors have to come to zonal offices. They don’t conduct these camps on a ward level,” he said.

He further explained that the main problem lies in the lack of coordination between the banks and the BBMP. To apply for the loan, he said, you have to receive a Letter of Recommendation after which a Service Request Number (SRN) is generated and that has to be shared with the banks. The BBMP was only sharing the account number with the banks and not the code.

“The application doesn’t go the banks correctly. The BBMP official has to go to the banks personally and match the numbers with the bank’s server; only then banks recognize the application. This requires a lot of coordination but they don’t have that.”