GUWAHATI: SS Market in Fancy Bazar area has been Ram Kumar’s world. It has been the place where he grew up and learnt the art of trading in goods. Puja and Bihu seasons are his favourites; the rush of people allows him to make decent money – but that was till last year.
This April, just after the Bihu season, he and around 200 other hawkers were forcibly shifted from this famous vending area of SS Road. There was a Gauhati High Court order and Rajat and the other 200 hawkers could not do much. The authorities have given them space in the next lane at the Guwahati Municipality Market, but the hawkers are not keen on shifting.
The building that has been provided for them by GMC was visited by this reporter and as per the claims of the hawkers, it is simply unsuitable for their business. The road leading to the market is already crowded on both sides by fruit sellers. Moreover, it is more attached to the grocery items market and is not a footfall area. The height of the floor is low according to the hawkers. The entry to the passage that leads to the mezzanine floor is entirely occupied by vegetable wholesalers.
“It was actually meant for the fish market. They are trying to send us there as they want to tell the court they have given us space. The total number of slots in that building is for 52 shops. We will require four times that area,” said Ram who deals in denims.
The hawkers were supposed to share the floor with the fish sellers. Interestingly, there were no fish sellers to be found when this reporter visited the spot. The whole floor was empty. A few daily wage labourers were sleeping on the floor. On being enquired where the fish sellers were the other residents said that the fish sellers don’t come here.
“Only a single old man used to come and sell his fish. They are fighting a case in the court as they are not happy with their relocation. The fish sellers were not able to clear their stocks on regular basis as they were suddenly moved to this new location. This led to losses and they finally gave up the spot,” explained a vegetable seller.
It was learnt that only seven of the fish sellers are paying the fee to the GMC for retention, the rest have not bothered. The fish seller story is for another day. “This shows that the administration, by taking the cases to court, has been trying to ruin lives. Why give a spot to someone that will lead to losses and kill his livelihood? Who is going to pay for all this?” said a hawker.
“If the police or the municipality administration has to shift hawkers, they will have to shift everyone. The whole Guwahati has to be made clean. Why only this road has been made the target? What about Lakhtokia, Kumarpatty and Athgaon sides? What about Ganeshguri? I am 55 years old and my father died doing this business. This is everything we have. Over a thousand families have been affected,” said another hawker.
The SS Road hawker market has divisions within themselves. There are two major groups that operate there. The rest are temporary hawkers from other parts of the city who come and sell their wares only during festive seasons. “There are two parties in this – one from LIC building towards the police point, and other towards the river side. The GMC and police keep on disturbing and coming here during business hours. We display our wares on a bed sheet on the road and at the appropriate moment we just wrap up everything and run.
This is such a nonsensical thing. We have lost the case in the court and now we have become like street beggars who are shoved aside by everyone. We don’t have money to fight the case. We are just like daily wage earners, we earn and spend every day,” said Sandeep.