Though it is close to two years since the work of the new building coming up to house Jayanagar vegetable market vendors started, it seems that the complex will see no respite from encroachment in the near future.
If anything, the problem only seems to be getting worse, with some regulars who set up nameless stalls claiming that they face trouble from neither the municipal body nor the police.
“Every now and then— there are no regular intervals — they (the police) just come and ensure we leave with all our goods. We come back in a day or two and slowly settle in once more,” says 40-year-old Gopi, whose mother runs a shop inside, in the vegetable market area.
“We are three brothers and my father had one shop. So we have left that to my mother and each one of us has our own stalls outside. We have been here for two decades now, so no one bothers us too much,” says the vendor who sells women’s clothes.
Then there are those who rent shops inside the complex, but also occupy corridors and pathways outside as they find that business is not brisk enough otherwise.
“Most people skip the inside of the complex,” says 45-year-old Yashoda, adding that this is a tactic used by several shopkeepers inside.
Along the line that has Nagasri Book House, there are shops that extend their wares to reach the other side of the corridor as well. “Sometimes officials come on rounds. When you slip money their pockets, they usually leave us alone,” says an employee of the shop on condition of anonymity.
A cashier at a store that sells newborn and infant products feels that vendors who have makeshift stalls get all the benefits of business without bothering about maintenance expenses.
“They too have to pay up every now and then, when someone comes checking. But they don’t have to worry about electricity bills and the like,” he says. He adds that hawkers should continue to have space in the Jayanagar market, albeit in a more controlled atmosphere. “If not Jayanagar, where else will people go to buy stuff off the footpaths,” he asks.
On how much it costs to keep the authorities at bay, S G Sathyanarayana, proprietor of a ready-made garments store says, “I’ve heard it’s about `200 per day.” He tells City Express that despite repeated complaints from the merchants’ association, the authorities have been putting off taking action.
“They have said that they would do it after the elections. But they have not kept up promises earlier as well,” he adds.
Vice-president of the Jayanagar Shopping Complex Merchants’ Association Venkatesh K V observes that those who occupy the corridors or the footpath are no longer hawkers, but shopkeepers. “The same quality goods that they sell are also available in the shops inside, often for lower price. They are shopkeepers who don’t have to pay any overhead costs — no electricity bills, rent or salary to employees.”
Yet he feels that the problem is less about competition between the two groups and more about blocking access to shops.
“Whether people want to buy from the footpath or us is secondary, but they should be able to access our shops. Right now, they block the pathways and corridors.”
He adds that while this was a weekend menace four to five years ago, now hawkers set up shop for the entire day on all days of the week.
“It has gotten worse over the past year-and-a-half, and every time we complain — to the police, to someone in the BBMP — they promise to take action,” he says, adding that they have not kept up their word.
About shopkeepers who have shops inside and find it necessary to do business outside as well, he replies, “According to me, if you have a shop, that’s sufficient to do business. I don’t know what’s really happening; some of these shop owners are hand in glove with those who sit outside.”
Jayanagar MLA B N Vijay Kumar too echoes the same sentiments.
“The hawkers are encouraged by the shopkeepers. In fact, many of them are even deputed because the shop owners are afraid that they will lose out on customers if they don’t. Earlier, a few years ago, when police inspector S K Umesh was there, we’d got them to pack up, but without cooperation from the merchants’ association and shopkeepers here, it’s impossible to do much,” he says.