Illegal Vegetable Market Disrupts Peace of Guwahati Residents | Guwahati News

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Guwahati Ward Watch: Illegal Vegetable Market Disrupts Peace of Machkhowa Residents

Nibir Deka | September 14, 2020 18:04 hrs

Sabir Ahmed is a third-generation resident of Kedar Road Chariali. He has seen the area develop from the old market to the current day modern setting. He continues to face one of the perennial problems of the area which is illegal encroachment of public space at the intersection of Kedar Road, Hem Baruah, Tarun Ram Phukan, and Jail Road. 


At around 4 am every morning, the road starts to buzz with the unloading of goods disturbing the sleep of the locals. The market activities begin and continue till 7 am. Within 10 minutes, a crowd gathers and a traffic jam ensues in the vicinity. Ahmed spoke to G Plus to express his frustration over the issue that hinders his lifestyle causing major inconvenience. He said, "From 4 am it all starts and even my entrance is blocked." 


As the market activities conclude, the road is filled with waste which overflows from the dustbins meant for residential usage. The residents have taken up the matter and complained to authorities. "I have complained to Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) and they evicted them recently. Yet, they are back again. The police come and observe but do nothing. They make the place dirty, social distancing is a distant dream here."
 

Concentrated area: Kedar Road Chariali, Machkowa 
Ward No. 8, 9
Population of ward: 22,388 (8), 16,816 (9)
Households: 4,663 (8), 3,220 (9)
Local MLA: Ramendra Narayan Kalita, Siddhartha Bhattacharya


Livelihood VS encroachment: What’s the priority?


The local shopkeepers reveal that the unauthorized market has only increased after the COVID-19 lockdown. A host of these vendors come from outside Guwahati from as far as Barpeta, Baihata Chariali, and Sonitpur. "I used to have a job and I just started selling vegetables as I am out of work after the lockdown," said a vendor. 


None of the vendors have any trade licenses to operate in the area. Some of them are hired by local brokers who take a commission cut from their sales.


There have also been accusations against the GMC for meting out excesses against the vendors. "My goods were confiscated along with my weighing scale. I have started doing this since lockdown and there is no way out for me. Where will I sell?” said Rahman Ali who hails from Sonitpur. A vast majority of the vendors said that they had lost their conventional employment and have started selling vegetables only since the lockdown. Another issue for them has been the lack of a market to carry on their trade.


The Street Vendors’ (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014 regulates street vendors in public areas and protects their rights. The Act states that all vendors are to be accommodated in vending zones and no vendors are allowed to carry out such activities in non-vending zones. After 5 years of its commencement, GMC is yet to implement it fully. The administration had earlier proposed 8 vending zones in Borbari, Kachari, Ganeshguri, Bhangagarh, Uzan Bazar, and Silpukhuri. But these locations are yet to be notified. 


G Plus spoke to Naren Rajbongshi, President of Assam Street Vendors’ Association (ASVA), who claimed, "Both the Congress and Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) governments have not implemented the policy. There were 58 places, a few vending zones proposed. Seven were even identified by GMC and a contractor was given tender. Even money was sanctioned for a few of them but no official has been able to use it which has led to problems." As such, a major consequence of this has been the lack of authorised markets for these vendors. 


Rajbongshi also maintains that a lot of vendors don't know their rights, which further add to their miseries. "There are instances of bribing done by street vendors for a market place. Most of them do it as they are unaware of their rights. If you go to Panbazar, people are more aware there.”


Course of action


The GMC enforcement team conducted an eviction drive at Machkhowa on August 19 to remove the pavement from encroachers and other illegal shops that have settled down. Approximately 500 kgs of vegetables were seized and various temporary sheds were demolished. The seized items were later distributed by GMC to Snehalaya, the Indian Council for Child Welfare, the Assam Branch of Association for Social Health India, and Ambikagiri Memorial Trust Society. But the vendors came back again to restart the market. 


The residents have complained again but GMC is yet to start a re-eviction. "I have nothing to add. The poor are earning and it’s a good thing, but this is difficult to us as it’s a residential area. I request the GMC to intervene and relocate them," said a local resident. The President of ASVA believes the “need to establish a vending place and for that a provision of an alternative location.”


The registered vending zone is not a silver bullet as the vendors associated are seasonal. Meanwhile, the GMC has also eased their approach on the eviction drive.  "Lockdown has just opened and we can’t be so harsh on them. We are trying to send them to GMC lease markets," said Navadeep Changmai, GMC Collector. The GMC has also been exploring a mobile van project to accommodate the temporary sellers.  


The locals have called out the police over inaction. G Plus spoke to Bharalumukh PS Sub Inspector Pranjal Baruah who said, "The main task in coordination is of GMC. The police are not liable primarily." On the allegations of a syndicate run by the police to allow them to sit on the footpath, Baruah responded, "I have nothing to say, people can challenge us by filing an FIR if they believe so.”

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