Sopore Street Vendors Rue Govt Apathy
Vendors demand space near the main market that is accessible to people.
SOPORE — The street vendors in north Kashmir’s Sopore township are suffering for the past four years as the administration neither allows them to operate their stalls by roadsides nor provides them with an alternate space.
In 2018, the vendors were granted permission for setting up their carts at the old Government Bus Stand near Main Chowk, Sopore. A couple of months later, they were asked to vacate as some government office needed to be constructed.
The street vendors had collected money from their pockets to fill the space provided to them. “It was a very uneven space and we collected Rs 200 per stall to fill out the space but despite that we were forcefully vacated,” said Sameer Ahmad, one of the vendors.
Although the vendors were provided a substitute space to set up their stalls, hardly a customer visits them.
“The space provided to us is an alley from Naharpora to Shallpora. It is a deserted place and has graveyards on both sides,” Irfan Ahmad, another vendor said. He said that it has been seven months since they were provided the alternate space, but the place is inaccessible and hardly a customer visits the vendors.
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Muhammad Asif has been setting up his stall on roadsides in Sopore for the past 15 months. He said that these seven months have been the worst time for his business.
“I have been setting up stalls since a very young age and never have I ever felt this helpless. We can’t work on footpaths, we don’t have any other place to operate from. Where shall we go?” he asked.
Now, many vendors have again started setting up their stalls on roadsides to earn some money.
Abdul Ahad Shah, another vendor, said he has a large family to feed and has to pay for the education of his four kids. “I am in distress and haven’t been able to pay my kids’ school fee for the last two years.”
Shah was ill when he spoke to Mountain Ink. He said he was advised to undergo a test. “I need to get a medical test done that costs Rs 300, but I swear I don’t have even Rs 300,” Ahad said.
The vendors rue that even though an occasional customer visits their stalls, police and municipality guys come and seize their carts.
“I have been working here for 30 years and this cart is my only source of income, how does the government expect a poor man like me to survive?” Ahad asked.
The street vendors unanimously said that their demand is that a space be provided to them that is around the marketplace and is easily accessible. “The issue does not only affect 300 vendors, but 300 families,” Irshad Ahmad, another vendor said.
The Sopore Municipal officials have been saying that the street vendors are the cause of traffic jams in the town. “If the municipality thinks that we are the cause of traffic jams, then isn’t it their job to provide us a proper place?” Irfan asked.
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Aaliya Shalla is a trainee staff writer at the Mountain Ink. She is a pass out of Multimedia & Mass Communication from the Govt. Degree College, Baramulla.