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Draft E-Commerce Policy: Bangalore Street Vendors’ Federation asks for protection of their businesses

The Bengaluru Jilla Beedhi Vyapari Sanghatnegala Okkuta (Bengaluru Street Vendors’ Federation), representing the interests of street vendors’ Unions in Bangalore, has submitted comment to the DPIIT with demands for policies to keep their businesses sustainable. They seek measures to help small retail and vendors compete with e-commerce companies using advantages of capital funding to sustain continued losses. They also make an important submission on Community Data, asking for widespread consultation on the subject of data, data ownership and its usage. The complete submission is accessible here and summarised below. We are also compiling a list of submissions to the DPIIT on the draft policy.

Specific demands before the release of a policy

  • Release of a consultative report: The DPIIT must speak with Street Vendors’ Unions about the effect of e-commerce on the state of their businesses and come out with a report. The Department must set up a committee to look into how livelihoods in street vending and small retail are badly affected, and prepare a report on the impact and the concerns raised by the businesses.
  • Public and accessible discussion of the draft: The Draft Policy must be translated into all Indian languages and discussed on a public forum. There can only be progress on eventual adoption of a policy after public discussions about the proposed measures.
  • Development of a policy for small retail: This is done through discussions with vendors’ unions on what steps can be taken to improve business. Some measures would include accessible credit, ease of access to goods and improvement of basic facilities at markets.

Prevention of concentration of data with govt and private sector

  • Objects to the concentration of data with the government and private companies. Private companies profit from data on smaller businesses, including their business activity, browsing activity, and purchases. Sole possession of this data with the government is also wrong.
  • Existing market harms including oligopolies and continuous deep discounts need to be regulated. Rather than formulating new policies, measures should be taken against existing violations.

Community (and its relationship with) data

The submission of the Street Vendors’ Federation brings out a key point on community data.

Your policy also speaks of Data. It says data will be as important as oil and all business will be data- centric. It also says data is a national asset and is like mines. We don’t understand much about data. But we understand mines.

Earlier, we were of the opinion that it is best for mines to stay with the government control. But of late we have seen that nationwide, the policy is to allow private people to exploit mines. therefore communities are now talking of communities themselves retaining ownership of minerals below the earth.

  • Asks for widespread discussions about data ownership, the concept of data and its usage. The discussions should be held in all Indian languages on a public forum, and in a manner accessible to the common person.

Policy fails in its aim of ensuring a level playing field

  • The draft policy does nothing to counter the deep discounts continually offered by e-commerce platforms. The draft policy does nothing for street vendors’ declining businesses, and hurts it further with policies framed to favour growth of e-commerce.
  • The level playing field is destroyed by the entry of companies with deep pockets and foreign capital capturing the market with continuous discounts. This has also hurt Indian companies. The creation of a “level playing field” does not include consideration of street vendors at all.
  • Measures to protect smaller vendors against large retail chains are required immediately. The DPIIT, being the department for promotion of trade, is duty-bound to bring out policies that encourage smaller vendors’ businesses as well.
  • Street vendors provide goods at a crucially accessible price point for a majority of consumers in urban areas, and are an integral part of the trade ecosystem.

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