BENGALURU: A project to construct an underground air-conditioned Palika Bazaar in Vijayanagar at a cost of Rs 18 crore has left street vendors worried. The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) plans to construct it on Vijayanagar 8th Main Road which is a service road. The project has been envisaged along the lines of Delhi’s Palika Bazaar in Connaught Place.
Despite the Street Vendors’ (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014, under which street vendors cannot be displaced, 26 street vendors in Vijayanagar have been displaced for the past one-and-a-half months as BBMP has got the area barricaded and felled a tree for construction. There is an atmosphere of fear among the street vendors as they allege they are intimidated by Vijayanagar constituency Congress MLA M Krishnappa’s men if they publicly come out in protest. The market is a brainchild of Krishnappa whose posters adorn the electric poles in the area. “There are 160 to 180 vendors here. We sell perishables like fruits and vegetables, and flowers. In Delhi’s Palika Bazaar, they only sell clothes and electronic goods.
I sell pooja items like turmeric, kumkum (vermillion) and camphor. Who is going to come 25 feet underground and buy our merchandise? Our trade works due to convenience and visibility. The market provides neither of those,” said a vendor requesting anonymity. The vendors say they weren’t consulted for the project, and the detailed project report is not being shown to them despite RTI applications. “There are 42 shops being constructed in the first phase and 50 in the second phase.
It is not going to cover all of us and where are we supposed to go till the construction is over? On what basis will the shops be allotted and to whom? If the MLA can get the project sanctioned without our consultation, the shops can also be allotted according to his wish. We’ve made representations to everyone from the Commissioner to the Mayor,” the vendor said.
A civic activist requesting anonymity said, “Barricades have been put up, and pedestrians and shopkeepers have been inconvenienced. The area where the market will come has a huge BESCOM line and water pipe, and these haven’t been shifted yet and one is not sure where they will be shifted since right next to the service road standing tall are Metro line pillars and the main road will have white topping. No BBMP official is giving out details and the vendors are threatened into silence by the MLA.”
BBMP Commissioner, Chief Engineer for Major Projects, executive engineer and assistant executive engineer for the ward were unavailable for comment on the technicalities of the project. BJP Vijayanagar ward corporator Srilatha Gopinath Raju also opposes the construction. “It is unnecessary, the Palike should invest in projects that benefit the public. I have raised the concerns of the vendors in the council meetings, spoken to the BBMP Commissioner and Mayor but nobody is paying heed. The MLA’s men allot places for the street vendors and collect money from them. They have already got `5 crore released.”