Women vendors take back belongings from Ima Keithel in Manipur

As lockdown persist with COVID-19 spread in the state, nearly 4,000 women vendors of the three Ima Keithels in Imphal have little choice but to take back their products stored in the markets

One by one, they came and took away their goods to their homes

One by one, they came in different vehicles and took away their goods left behind in the markets to their homes. With lockdown in Manipur likely to persist with fresh COVID-19 cases springing back in the state, nearly 4,000 licensed women vendors of the three Ima Keithels in Imphal have little choice but to take back their products stored in the markets.

The three Ima Keithels (markets) have been shut down since the nationwide lockdown began. The women vendors have ceased all forms of business activities and transactions for nearly two months since March 21 as part of the precautionary measure against the outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus.

“One of the major problems faced by the women vendors in nearly two months of ceasing business, apart from our deteriorating livelihood means, is the properties being damaged by rats and mice,” secretary, Khwairamband Nupi Keithel Sinpham Amadi Shaktam Kanba Lup (KNKSASKL), Thingujam Rani told the Imphal Free Press.

“Clothing items and other materials which were kept wrapped by clothes and not put inside steel or iron chests were found damaged by rodents,” she said. 

KNKSASKL president Thoudam Shanti, with a gleam of hope, told the IFP that the women vendors are now willing to continue their business at their homes especially for clothing and other essential items which are a must in ritual and marriage ceremonies being performed in low key nowadays. 

As told by them, the belongings and items for sale of the women vendors have been guarded and kept on vigil throughout the night by around 200 workers of Kanglei Economic Development Organisation (KEDO), Workers’ Union Manipur (WUM), Manipur Senmit Ehou Lup (MASEL) among others. KEDO, WUM and MASEL are organisations of indigenous labourers, who apart from carrying out their businesses in the Khwairamband Keithel, also helped the women vendors in carrying out businesses.

The women vendors continued that the labours guarding their properties are also at risk with new positive cases surfacing in the state. “Besides, we can no longer pay them as our business has also been brought to standstill. As such, we have decided to store our belongings at our homes so that they also can return home,” they added.

Notably, representatives and leaders of the women vendors in Ima Keithel had a meeting with the chief minister on Friday and discussed the plights of the vendors. 

In the meantime, renovation and beautification of the Ima Keithel western building is underway in full swing since March end. It is for the first time that the western building is renovated ever since the three newly constructed buildings were inaugurated in 2010. 

Commissioner, Imphal Municipal Corporation (IMC), K Chandrakumar said that IMC’s plan is to finish renovation works during the lockdown when businesses are being put at halt. “Almost 80 per cent of renovation works have been completed so far and some cementing works is left out,” he said.

First Published:May 18, 2020, 10:08 p.m.

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