Government must accept farmers’ demands: Sellers at Okhla vegetable market

Vegetable sellers support farmers’ protest

Society

December 29, 2020

/ By / New Delhi

Despite lack of regular news updates and falling short of supplies, vegetable sellers say they stand in union with the protesting farmers.


Amidst all the chaos of the street vendors running around, shopkeepers shouting out their prices at the top of their lungs, loudspeakers playing namaaz (Islamic prayer) and the occasional fight between customers and the vendors, one can spot a blue board with ‘Fruit & Vegetable Market Sub-Yard, Okhla’ which is also commonly referred to as the Okhla sabzi mandi (vegetable market).

Spread out over 10 acres, Okhla sabzi mandi houses myriad stalls laden with the choicest vegetables. It houses around 300 shops selling assorted fruits and vegetables which are thronged by hundreds of vegetable hawkers eager to buy fresh green groceries at throwaway prices. The market opens for business everyday at 5 am and continues to buzz with activities till late evening.

Most sellers say their business continues as usual but the number of buyers and regularity of supplies has declined since the farmers have blocked Delhi borders (MIG Photos/ Danish Mohamed)

The market sources its supplies of vegetables, fruits and other groceries from various states like Haryana, Punjab or Madhya Pradesh. Most say their business continues as usual but the number of buyers and regularity of supplies has declined since the farmers have blocked Delhi borders.

While most other sellers and traders in the market seem relatively unaware of the situation and updates of the farmers’ protest, a few voiced their opinions and talked about the difficulties they are facing due to blockage of Delhi borders.

“We get vegetables from Ballabhgarh area of Faridabad, Haryana.  Due to the blocking of the road as a result of farmers’ protest at various Delhi borders, their supply has been affected. We also have a shortage of certain vegetables that used to come from other states, especially from Haryana and Punjab,” Mohammad Islam, a vegetable seller at Okhla mandi tells Media India Group. Islam explains that earlier the mandi used to be filled with people but it remains devoid of buyers now.

Contrary to Islam, another trader, Farmaan, who sells potatoes at the mandi, says that he has not been impacted much, despite the blockage on the capital’s border. “We are not facing any problem in supplies. The only problem is that the sale has constantly been low but that has happened on other occasions earlier too,” says Farmaan.

Islam and Farmaan are but two of the hundreds of vegetable and fruit seller affected by the protest. Thousands of others have been impacted in a similar way but most seem hesitant about voicing their opinion about the farmers’ protest and comment on the current situation.

A 14-year-old boy, son of a vegetable seller, who constantly listened to the conversation of the elders gathered around him, explained that due to lack of regular news updates about the issue, most of the sellers at the market lack an opinion.

“We watch entertainment channels mostly. We know that farmers are protesting, but we get very tired by dusk and do not pay attention to the news every day until it becomes viral or is breaking news. How can we have an opinion on this,” he asks.

However, the few who were aware of the farmers’ protest against the three farm bill, now in its fourth month, said that they stand in support of the farmers and wish that the government would accept their demands.

“I am selling cauliflowers for about INR 2 per kg. I barely earn any profit from it. I wonder what the farmers will get,” says Islam.

“I feel farmers are doing the right thing by protesting and demanding their rights. Farmers invest a lot of effort and time in cultivating each crop. It is actually the fruit of their sweat and blood and the government should understand this and show some mercy,” Islam adds.

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