NEDUMBASSERY : It looks like the market complex in Nedumbassery, set up to rehabilitate wayside traders, has failed to serve the purpose.
“Of the total 54 rooms, five have been rented out to Maveli stores, one to VFPCK, six are tangled in cases and a total of 42 rooms have been rented out to others. Of them, 30 rooms are open currently,” says panchayat president P Y Varghese.
At first glance, the impression was one of desolation with more than half the shutters closed down. The traders in some of the open rooms in the complex told us that except for a few shops which closed down for the day, most other stores were frozen in a seemingly perpetual time warp. “We are aware of the situation,” said the president. “However, all the traders are paying the rent religiously, so it is not possible for us to intitiate any action against them,” he said.
Countering his argument, opposition member and party secretary Adv P P Baiju said that the panchayat could have included a clause wherein the administration could confiscate those stalls that have not been in use for a fixed time period. “They chose not to include such a clause,” he said.
“After the initial Onam rush, sales volume has steadily declined,” said a vegetable merchant in one of the stalls. “One issue is that the the meat markets occupy the first few stalls, and the smell of pork becomes a deterrent to many who enter the market. Even the Maveli stores are located at the back end. Basically, in this market, meat merchants enjoy the highest volume of sales,” he says. He goes on to claim that the shutters of the stalls were closed down by design. “Some people buy three to four stalls at the low rent offered by the panchayat and they go on to rent it out to third parties at twice or thrice the original rent,” he claims.
A meat merchant operating at the complex said that the stalls were a means of channeling black money into white. They believed that the closed stalls had an adverse effect on their respective businesses. Anil Kanjiri, a former district panchayat member, echoes the same sentiments. “Many closed stalls are benami properties for affluent people. The situation of the market will improve only if all the stalls function properly,” he said.