Saturday , 25 May 2019

Move Roadside Vendors To Small Marketplaces

Sale of vegetables and fruits on the roadside is not unusual in Goa; but the number of sellers has been increasing. Many of them sell vegetables grown in their fields braving heat and dust and risk of harm from speeding vehicles. They are nearer their homes and save money and time on transport to and from the nearest marketplaces. The local growers have been urging the authorities to earmark places for their vending but they have not responded positively to their plea. Farmers work in the fields during the day time and sell their produce in the afternoon hours. They do not have time to go to the ‘main’ market and sit their whole day to sell their produce.  They have to sell their produce in the shortest possible time in the evening. Often their women after doing their household chores sit by the roadside in the afternoon to sell their produce. They choose the places nearest to their homes and fields so that they can also keep vigil on the vegetables and fruits that are grown and protect from rogue elements as well as stray cattle.

The local and state authorities could establish mini or satellite markets which would help the local produce sellers and also reduce congestion in the bigger markets. The authorities could thus earn more revenue. Such markets would prevent road blockages and garbage heaps that serve as feeding places for stray animals along the roads. Mini or satellite markets will also help bring down the rates of business premises which are too high in established markets and bigger towns, and make it affordable for newer entrants in businesses. While small spaces and cubicles in mini or satellite markets could be given to the people on sopo basis, other shops available at cheaper rent would give options to the self-employed to hire them on affordable rent.

The government has acquired lakhs of square metres of land belonging to farmers for infrastructure and other public works. As most of new roads and bypasses have been constructed on land that was once agricultural, the land losers, who managed to save and cultivate whatever land they could, strongly feel that they have a right to sell their produce by the roadside. The feeling that they have a right to do so comes from the fact that acquisition of parts of their land has diminished their area of production and livelihood resource. Though the government through the Goa Horticulture Development Corporation has been trying to help local farmers by buying their produce and selling them through various outlets, the farmers feel that they do not get the returns they could get by selling their produce directly to end consumers. Besides, not the entire produce makes it to the GHDC outlets.  As a result, farmers have to find a market for their produce directly and find the edges of the roads nearer their homes the best places to sell it. The increasing number of illegal and unorganized vendors is a pointer that the problem is going to get worse for the local and state authorities. It may not remain limited to local vegetables and fruits.

The state and local bodies authorities have implemented various proposals to streamline hawking, vending of goods and movement of carts, particularly those dealing with food, vegetables and fruits. However, absence of regular monitoring of and enforcement of rules for marketing of goods on or along the roads, streets, lanes and by-lanes has only led to a proliferation that is alarming from the point of view of diminution of public space.  The vendors show no regard to rules. There is corruption working at lower levels for the continuance of the encroachment of public space by the roadside vendors. There are cases of local politicians allowing their men to lease in a piece of government or community land and then illegally sub-lease it to others, often migrants for a premium. By setting up mini or satellite markets the authorities could try and solve all these problems. If there is a designated community marketplace, such illegalities will stop and additional revenue could be generated by way of rent or sopo for the local authorities.

At the same time it is absolutely essential that once small designated marketplaces are set up, those travelling on Goa’s roads in their cars or on their bikes should not stop to buy from any vendors that might still be sitting by the roadside. That would send out a gentle message to the sellers that they should go to the nearest marketplace to sell their produce. That way, the roadsides will be free and the marketplaces will provide income to vendors and local authorities and a good bargain for customers.