Kerala High Court comes to the rescue of street vendors excluded from humanitarian aid

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The Kerala high court has come to the rescue of street vendors who have been ignored by the government authorities in providing humanitarian aid during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Considering a petition filed by Jamal KM, Justice AK Jayasankaran Nambiar on Monday directed the state government to extend the benefit of community kitchen to street vendors identified by Kochi Corporation and to pay Rs 1,000 each to those belonging to BPL category.

In a report filed by amicus curiae and advocate KP Pradeep, it was pointed out that street vendors identified by Kochi Corporation are not part of any schemes being operated by the state government during the lockdown.

Though a number of street vendors are migrants, they have also not been included in the category of migrant labourers so as to obtain relief in that category. He suggested that street vendors should be paid a relief of Rs 1,000 each.

During the hearing, additional advocate general Ranjith Thampan submitted that the state government has decided to provide an aid of Rs 1,000 each to street vendors who belong to BPL category and are not receiving benefits of any other scheme, said a Times of India report.

The additional AG also pointed out that it is the central government that has to act as per the respective legislation and demanded that the central government should be made a party in the case.

Advocate Kaleeswaram Raj argued that by operation of the statute, street vendors constitute a class, irrespective of whether they belong to APL or BPL category. There may be persons who have not undergone the process of being classified as APL or BPL, he pointed out.

Advocate TB Mini submitted that many identified street vendors do not live within Kochi corporation limits and that police will not allow them to travel to reach the community kitchen in the city. Counsels representing the government and Kochi Corporation submitted that community kitchens are present everywhere.

There are only 24,000 street vendors in the state and the state government can provide a small financial assistance to them, irrespective of whether they are categorized as BPL, as they are not covered under any welfare scheme, advocate Mini submitted.

The court said the measures suggested by the government is reasonable and said it will pass an order to attach street vendors to nearby community kitchen and to provide financial assistance of Rs 1,000 to vendors belonging to BPL category (with inputs from Times of India)

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