Arbind Singh is a champion for the rights of all informal workers by securing their access to markets, financial services and technology through people owned and managed institutions. Leading Nidan and the National Associations of Street Vendors (NASVI), Arbind is currently working with over 300,000 informal workers across India.
Arbind has spent the last twenty years empowering informal workers across India to use collective action to achieve macro-level changes. Nidan, an umbrella organisation for collectives of informal workers, enables workers to secure economic and social inclusion, and emerging as legitimate competitors in India’s market economy. Towards this, Nidan offers comprehensive services around health, education, livelihood and financial services, towards building access and identity for this invisible population. Further, his unique organisational model brings the workers into the board room as board members, creating collective ownership of the organisation. Nidan also facilitates a peer to peer mentoring program so that workers can gain skills from other colleagues.
In this way, Arbind has supported over 22 enterprises of ragpickers, jute pickers, craftspersons, home-based workers, rice growers, and the like. The workers own and sell shares in the cooperatives, and remain at the forefront of all negotiations and decision-making. Today, Arbind aims to reach 1,00,000 informal workers by 2014, and has expanded Nidan’s outreach from the grassroots of Bihar to the states of Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and the Delhi/NCR region.
Arbind has successfully demonstrated the power of collective action through one of Nidan’s initiatives, the National Alliance of Street Vendors (NASVI). The priority of NASVI is securing the livelihood of street vendors through policy interventions, advocacy within political-legal environment, capacity building of street vendor organizations, financial services and building awareness about the issues of street vendors. Through a structured and democratic membership policy, NASVI supports 450,000 members to promote capacity building and mobilize workers towards seeking basic opportunities and rights.
In 2014 Arbind successfully advocated for the historic Street Vendors Act which allows street vendors to carry on their trade without any interruptions from the municipal corporations, or government or others trying to evict them and cause huge losses of business and identity. Its implementation will directly benefit close to two million street Vendors of India who currently do not have protection. Arbind now plans to secure a law to protect the rights of rag pickers in India and design better waste management methods.
Note: This was updated in August, 2014. Read on for the ELECTION profile.