Distressed city hawkers rue govt apathy

SHILLONG: Street vendors and hawkers, who have been virtually denied any assured source of income for the past three months, have pent up feelings of being given a “Cinderella treatment” by the government. And nobody can blame them for it. While most of the markets and business establishments are functioning, it is only this unorganized lot who are made to wait like they were pariah.
The Shillong Times tried to gauze what it takes to be a hawker these days. When this reporter caught up with some of the vendors, instantaneously they poured out the bottled up feelings of anxiety, harassment and apathy. The common thread was their incapacity to make two ends meet, police highhandedness and lack of any support from the administration. Most of the vendors claimed that their right to earn a living has been taken away, while they do not possess ration card, proving to be a double whammy.
Biolin Pyrtuh, a vendor in Khyndai Lad, said, “Life is so difficult. You should come to my house and see it for yourself. She said that three months of lockdown were very tough days. Initially, she survived from her small bank savings which has used up.
From the earnings, she sets aside Rs 150 daily for the rent of Rs 3500 and keeps the rest as savings in the bank. The savings in the bank kept the family going in the initial days.
She said that the Dorbar Shnong has helped in distributing essential commodities. With vending not allowed, she is struggling to make ends meet.
A single mother, she sends her three children to school but said that the school has asked for school fees. “I and the other parents got a call that we must pay school fees”, she said.
Adding to her problems is that she does not possess any ration card and said, “I have applied but the name did not come out. But most of the vendors do not have any ration card”.
Pyrtuh said that police personnel do not even allow them to carry their clothes and hawk. “They chase us away even though we only carry clothes and bags in our hands”, she said.
Another vendor, S. Khongwir came huffing and puffing all the way from Anjalee Pump to Garikhana as the police personnel chased the vendors from Anjalee Pump.
A single mother, she told this reporter that earlier she worked as a domestic help but took up vending to feed her children.
“I worked as a domestic help in people’s homes but now no one is willing to call me to work and they keep saying “wait, wait”. But I cannot wait as I have to look after my children and being a single mother is not easy. So I had to take up vending”, she said.
Chandan Das, a B.Com first semester student, who is helping his father in his vending business, said that permission has not been granted for the hawkers to do business. His father who is the sole bread winner of the family earns his living by selling clothes at Red Cross Road, Laban but is currently selling only face masks.
“The business is very low and in a day we are able to sell 2-3 masks with a price range of Rs 100-Rs 200. With this kind of business, we are facing problems in giving rent and we have very less amount of food”, Das said adding that his father was able to send him and his young brother to school through the business of hawking.
With the Dorbar Shnong not allowing vendors in front of Red Cross, the vendors moved towards the other side on the way to Indoor Stadium Laban.
A vendor from Riat Laban, Nicholas Lyngdoh who sold vegetables along with his mother said that business used to be much better at the main Laban road. “The present location is not favourable and the Laban main road was much better. Here the sales are also limited unlike the Laban main road (Red Cross)”, he said. His aunt, who was also selling vegetables, said that business has been dull on account of the location. They were eager to go back to the earlier location.
Lasara Marbaniang, who was taken to Cantonment Beat House for the “crime” of vending about a month ago, said rather helplessly “I do not know how we will survive, we have to pay the rent also”. She and her husband are in the vending business and have three children with the eldest son waiting for his 12th class results.
Not having the benefit of ration card, Marbaniang said that she is forced to rope in her children in the vending business. “We are earning our livelihood from here. We have seen that almost every business is allowed except vending. We are apprehensive that if there is a rise in COVID-19 cases, then we will be nowhere. If there is a complete lockdown, we will not know what to do”, she said.
Another vendor, Shane Thabah said that with no vending business, some people would call him to work the fields and at least earn something. They are currently staying in a rented house as their own house was hit by a landslide and is currently being renovated.
Not having any ration card, he said that during the lockdown they were able to survive from the distribution of essential commodities. He said his is a huge family and has to look after his other siblings who were working but are currently without work.
At Motphran, Dalari Blah sells vegetables in a corner of the roadside at the entrance of the Parking lot in Garikhana. Before lockdown, she sold footwear and second hand clothes. Apart from the responsibility of looking after her children and a grandchild, she said that she also has to pay house rent. “The situation looks bleak as we have no place to sell vegetables, while being chased every now and then”, she let out in one breath.
Like all other vendors, what she too wants is to relocate herself at the same old spot at Motphran prior to lockdown. She said that the wooden beds that she used to keep her goods are no longer there in Motphran. She is waiting for a green signal from Hima Mylliem.
Little does she know that her fate is going to be decided in secretariat by ministers and babus for whom hawking and vending is not a top priority as of now.

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