Time to open the women markets
IFP Editorial: Till date, the main women markets in Khwairamband market have remained closed since March and the state government is yet to come up with a viable SOP for the women markets.
Now that the schools have reopened with SOPs, what is stopping the government from opening up the main women markets in Imphal Khwairamband Keithel? While the chief minister continue to deliver sops and loans to market vendors and street vendors as well to compensate for the loss of income during the pandemic, the state police is having a field day in shooing away the street vendors in and around Imphal market every morning from selling vegetables and other wares. Somehow, there seems to be a disconnect between the policy set by the state government and the implementation part during the pandemic. Chief Minister N Biren Singh disbursed loans to another 3,362 vendors in a function organized by Manipur Urban Development Agency (MUDA). Of these, 3015 were benefited under Pradhan Mantri Street Vendor’s Atma Nirbhar Nidhi (PM-SVANidhi) and 347 under MUDRA scheme. It was the third such instance since August 25 this year that the Chief Minister distributed loans to vendors. Currently, Manipur is ranked at No. 1 among Hill and North Eastern States category in implementation of PM-SVANidhi for the highest number of such loans disbursed till date.
Under PM-SVANidhi, each street vendor can avail loan up to Rs 10,000 repayable in monthly installments within a period of one year. The scheme provides interest subsidy of 7 per cent on regular and timely repayments and also incentivize digital transactions by vendors by providing monthly cash back up to Rs 100. Further, the vendors can avail the facility of escalation of the credit limit on timely early repayment of loan. Question is, how will the street vendors be able to repay the loan amount given to them if they are not allowed to do business or for that matter if the supply chain of vegetables is disrupted by police every morning in the name of enforcing Covid-19 SOPs.
Till date, the main women markets in Khwairamband market have remained closed since March and the state government is yet to come up with a viable SOP for the women markets. It is not enough that the women vendors of the main markets or the street vendors are compensated with loans or working capital. A viable SOP should be framed for opening the main markets and for the street vendors to do business. Every morning, vegetable wholesalers mostly women arrive in Imphal while street vendors (the retailers) wait for them. But, the police always make it a point to chase away both the wholesalers and retailers and the women had to run helter-skelter in the Leiraks of Imphal city waiting for an opportunity to sell their wares. We understand that police are among the frontline workers performing duties to enforce government guidelines for containing the spread of the disease. But, they have become the villain as no proper SOPs or guidelines have been framed with regard to the market women and street vendors. They are being cursed by the women every day for their action. The top politicians and bureaucrats do not understand the daily morning mayhem in Imphal nor do the police officers brief them properly about the difficulties. Instead of chasing away the street vendors, the state should come up with practical SOPs for the sake of both daily business and safety precautions while the vendors should be encouraged to maintain Covid appropriate behaviour at all times. We must always remember that, they will starve if they are not allowed to do business.
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