Now the women markets are open
IFP Editorial: The otherwise hyperactive market women had been lying dull without any activity or social life due to the Covid 19 pandemic restrictions.
Finally, the main women markets at Imphal Khwairamband Keithel are open, on the condition that appropriate Covid behaviour is followed. As the pandemic reached Manipur, the women markets were closed 11 months till it opened in February this year. However, with the coming of second wave the markets were closed again. The otherwise hyperactive market women had been lying dull without any activity or social life due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. The market women of Khwairamband Keithel had obliged the Chief Minister N Biren Singh after he made an appeal last year in March for voluntary closure of the three crowded main markets and temporary market sheds of Imphal to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
The market is not only about bread and butter to them. The marketplace is also their social life. It is not so much about the trading activity but the social interactions they engage in, which attracts them to Khwairamband Keithel daily. It is this very Khwairamband Market which gave birth to two historic Nupi Lals, the first of the anti-colonial movements against the mighty British empire. This legacy and spirit still runs in the veins of the market women today and they are always at the forefront of every social and political movement today. And the state law enforcing agencies are always at despair in handling situations involving market women.
As a gesture of good faith, Chief Minister N Biren Singh had distributed loans to a total of 817 vendors of different districts to support them in resuming their vending activities which have been affected by the lockdown. 368 street vendors were benefitted under the Pradhan Mantri Street Vendor’s Atmanirbhar Nidhi - PM SVANidhi and 449 regular licensed vendors including 14 from hill districts were provided assistance under the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) - SHISHU. Biren Singh celebrated the brave market women whose sacrifice helped check the spread of the pandemic, and informed that such loans would be provided to a total of around 20,000 vendors from different parts of the State. PM SVANidhi was launched by Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs on June 15, 2020. It is a special micro credit scheme for providing affordable working capital loan to street vendors to resume their livelihoods that have been affected due to COVID-19 lockdown.
During the lockdown, the three markets were given a face-lift while the nearby temporary market was totally neglected leading to dumping of solid waste and miscreants turning it into a place for illegal activity. Just as the municipal authorities have notified recently certain measures and restrictions in the marketplace, it is now up to the market leaders to keep the neat and tidy mainly the main women market. As we all know, most of the licensed vendors lease out spaces to other women and these sub-vendors who are not listed in the municipal rolls got left out of the benefits extended by the state and banks during the lockdown. In fact, they were the worse sufferers during the lockdown. The state government may once again go over the plight of these sub-vendors and extend help where it is applicable. However, caution is the word in such circumstances as the percentage of positivity and deaths keep fluctuating although it has come down to a manageable level. If proper precautions are not taken, the pattern may break again and a possible third wave. So, one has to be extremely careful in opening up.