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Daily wagers, street vendors in dire straits

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An empty Srinagar market during the coronavirus lockdown in 2020 (File Photo: KM/Umar Ganie)


Srinagar: Farooq Ahmad, a 20-year-old street vendor is devastated. For the last two months, his father is ailing and he has no money to buy medicine.

“I have been selling merchandise on a pushcart at the Sunday market for the last three years. I was earning enough to feed my family, but from March I am idle. I have exhausted all my savings. I do not have enough money to buy medicines for my father,” Farooq said in a heavy voice.

 

Farooq is not an isolated case. Hundreds of daily wagers and vendors are struggling to make ends meet in the lockdown.

 “We had started looking ahead after last year’s losses. Our dreams came crashing down after lockdown was announced. Whenever I hope that next year will make our condition better, it gets worse,” said, Amin Hakim, another vendor.

Hakim’s story is straight out of Bollywood. He was doing a roaring business until 2014 when floods washed away everything. “I had a showroom at Dalgate but 2014 floods ruined all my business. I later took a loan of Rs 3 lakh to re-establish my business but due to the frequent lockdowns it did not work,” he said.

From a showroom owner to a street vendor, Hakim has come a long way to come to terms with the new reality. “Sunday market was the only source of my income. Since March, I have spent everything I had saved.  Now, I have been taking credits from my friends to feed my family,” he added.

Irshad Ahmad, who is supplying merchandise to the vendors said, the street vendors live hand to mouth and if the lockdown continues they will face starvation. “I am myself incurring losses. Since August last year, we have suffered a loss of around Rs 15 lakh which is a big deal for people like us,” he said.

 Mudasir Ahmad, manager at Athrout said they are making list of area to be supplied with the relief kits.

“If you have come across some cases, you can forward the details and we will reach out to them,” he said.