BENGALURU: Vijayanagar Market emerged in the late 1980s, when there was only one connecting bus to K R Market, from where the goods were sourced. As of today, over 150 street-side shops dot over 500 metres stretch of Service Road and more than 60 per cent of them will vanish if the proposed underground market is constructed.
Vijayanagar market is usually bustling on Sunday afternoons but the crowds have thinned since malls have opened, say the vendors. The proposed underground market is just adding to their troubles, and diving them into who gets a space in it and who will have to pack-up and leave. The plan, as of now, has space only for 45 vendors.
Vegetable and flower stalls, pooja articles and fruit shops will be moved into the new air-conditioned facility tentatively called the Palike Bazaar and even these vendors are not happy with the idea. “There’s hardly any sale for us above the ground, what can we expect from an underground bazaar,” asks 58-year-old Sharathamma (name changed), who has been selling bananas here for the past 35 years.
Having stalls in the current location on the street has more benefits, according to her. “It is easy for motorists to slow down and buy what they need, as they pass by,” she says. “These passing buyers are a large part of our clientele. Once we move underground, who will come all the way down to buy?”
Sharing this apprehension is Prashant, who is also a fruit seller on the same lane. “Oldest shops have been selected to be moved underground and we will receive an ID card next month,” says Prashant. “But we are extremely worried about losing custom because who will take an extra effort to shop. Having an AC market makes no difference to us if there are no customers at all”.
‘We’ll pay BBMP for space on road’
Shoppers like 64-year-old Shailaja says that she will keep coming here even if the market is shifted. She and her husband have been buying veggies here for the past 15 years. But, she adds, more than half the vendors will run out of business in the new location. These smaller traders cannot afford the rent and space will be alloted to those who can, says Shailaja.
A reliable source, who does not want to be named, says that about Rs 5 lakh is being considered as a downpayment to purchase the shops. Sharathamma says that they are ready to pay taxes on their current spot if the corporation provides basic facilities and discard AC facilities underground.
The vendors have little idea on what actually going to take place. So far, a tin barricade has been put up to mark the area of construction. While that process was on, the vendors on the 8th Main Road, temporarily moved to another lane to sell their goods. Now they are back to their original spot but is clueless for how long.
“We don’t know if there will be a parking space for the customers. If they haven’t planned for one then we might not get customers at all,” adds Gowamma.Contrary to his counterpart’s opinion, Nagaraj, a vegetable vendor, believes that underground market is a great idea despite admitting that his sales will fall in the new location. “There will be less traffic and people can shop freely,” he says. He claims to be the owner of first six shops in the area.
Where’s fund for vendors?
The Street Vendors Association of Bengaluru says that the BBMP can spend crores to provide space for street vendors but it would have been better if the budget was spent to refurbish the current infrastructure which would cost less than that. Their one ardent demand is relocating vendors as per the 2014 Vendors Act (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending Act). “An alternative arrangement is needed for over 100 vendors,” says Lekha Adavi, a member of Bengaluru Jilla Beedhi Vyapari Sanghatanegala Okkuta. She further adds, “BBMP has allocated `2 crore for street vendors in its budget this financial year. It remains un-utilised.” The residents, on the other hand, feel that this will not resolve the issue since only 40 hawkers will be accommodated. If they really wanted to resolve this, then they could have thought of a BDA complex just behind the metro,” says Veeresh Bellur, resident of Vijayanagar. He also wonders if BBMP will maintain it well.
22-yr-old may lose cart that funds studies
The current market is also a hub for footwear and clothing. All of these traders will not be given a permit to open business in the AC facility. Abdul Naveez, a 22-year-old, moved from Mangaluru a year ago to pursue his studies. He also partnered with a footwear shop to help fund his education. “Now if we are told to shut the shop I will have to pack my bags and move out of the city,” Abdul says. Many of the footwear and clothes shop owners say that they will figure something out when the construction begins. “The construction will easily take a year or so and our business will suffer then too,” says Sailesh, who runs a stationary shop. The only vendors who are not affected by the project plan are those who have rented ground-floor apartments for their business.
Bazaar close to Metro stn
The proposed underground bazaar will be located close to Vijayanagar metro station. Vasanth Rao, general manager- finance (taxation and resources) and Chief PRO, says that the plan has not been discussed with them. “BBMP will surely take into consideration on what we have to say. We can only comment when the plan is shared,” states Vasanth Rao. This construction is only the first phase and the underground market is said to stretch from 6th Main Road to 14th Main Road.