“For the past 5 months we have been unable to earn a living, we have been surviving only on rice and salt”
By Garen Warjri Panor
Shillong, Aug 18: After a span of five and a half months, street hawkers and vendors set up shop in Police Bazaar on Tuesday, despite prohibitions from the district administration.
Since the lockdown, hawkers and vendors in the commercial market have been out of work, and many without alternate livelihoods or any government assistance to sustain themselves.
Carrying placards that read, “We have the right to live and to eat,” and “We want to earn righteously & not illegally,” they put up their mats selling items like fruits and vegetables, chappals, face masks, and more.
Speaking to Shillong Mail, a street vendor said, “For the past 5 months we have been unable to earn a living, we have been surviving only on rice and salt.”
Prior to the lockdown, the vendor stated that she was able to earn at least Rs. 500 on a normal day. “This is enough for us to buy our basic necessities, pay rent and pay for our children’s education,” she said.
Another vendor informed that she is facing eviction, but she can’t even move to another locality because local dorbar shnongs and residents are reluctant to let in people.
The vendor said that she is a member of the Meghalaya and Greater Shillong Progressive Hawkers and Street Vendors Association (M&GSPH&SVA). The Association had reportedly written to District Authorities requesting permission to resume work but haven’t heard back.
“Since we haven’t received any communication despite sending letters, we have decided to open shop,” she said, questioning as to why shops in the market are being allowed to resume activities but not the street hawkers and vendors.
She added that shops in Iewduh and other markets have also reopened, and since their livelihood depends on the market, they should be allowed to work.
Advisor to M&GSPH&SVA, Tarun Bhartya said that street vendors and hawkers constitute the most important part of the economy of Shillong.
“For 5 months, they have not had any work, there is hunger. The cash support that the government had promised haven’t even reached them. So finally they have decided to sit, they will sit, and they will sit with social distancing, in odd and even numbers,” he said.
Bhartya informed that the association has been asking the government for the last three months to find a system for them to resume work but to no avail.
Following this, police officials urged the hawkers and vendors to pack shop.
SP (City) Vivek Syiem informed that District Administration has not permitted hawkers and vendors to resume activities in Police Bazaar yet due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and therefore, they have requested them to close shop.