Charminar street vendors’ struggle for livelihood post lockdown

Hyderabad: Street vendors selling anything from food to clothes is a common sight across the old city, particularly in the historic Charminar area. Moreover, many of them, owing to the stringent lockdown imposed earlier from March-end to mid-May, had even taken to selling essential items. However, with tourism taking a hit and pockets running empty in general, hawkers are now fighting for survival. 

Before the COVID-19 hit the the world and its economy, hawkers formed a system that kept much of Hyderabad’s out on the streets, be it for hair clips or fruits. But the virus has now devastated their livelihoods and also disrupted their ability to go about doing business as usual. Many said that they’ve been simply shutting shop daily, with barely any business. 

“Because of the post-lockdown and due to the fear of virus, people were not coming to buy and the streets are still quiet. You don’t see anyone on the road now. I have been selling bangles at the Laad Bazar market from the last 20 years, but never witnessed the Charminar in such a situation. So, I have decided that I wouldn’t go to home as I spent most of the time on the street selling bangles. I’m also afraid if my family will get infected,”  says Mohammed Shakeel (25), who sells watches

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Post-lockdown: A fight for survival of street vendors

Life has many changed completely for street vendors. While many of them used to open up their push carts and go back home late at night, they however do not have that option anymore as they are not even allowed to set-up shop near the Charminar. 

“We just set up our small stall in the morning, idle around and then wind up all the stuff without any money these days. After each day, we end up returning home with a sad face,” said lamented Mohammed Khalid, a clothes seller. In fact, the situation is so grim that some of the vendors don’t even get to go home, as they have been forced to sleep on footpaths since their families fear that they may be infected with COVID-19. 

Almost all vendors this reporter spoke to said that sales are down by 90% compared to before the pandemic had begun. They pointed out that people from low-income households that rely on street vendors for clothing and other daily items, now are buying things only when necessary. 

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“We are not doing business at all, as no one has money to buy anything. And the fear of corona in not letting people come out to purchase stuff. All of us just sit near the Charminar the whole day,” says Iftekhar Ahmed (32) who sells bags near historic monument. Like him, life has become grimly idle, where one only has to wait and hope that some or the other customer may turn up at some point.

Given the problem, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) is now identifying street vendors, and has promised to help them monetarily by issuing loans of Rs.10,000 under the PM SVANidhi scheme.

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