Markets are a sensitive index. Stock markets are known to cause upheavals and downtrends in larger markets. But the principle of trading, or selling and buying, remains the same in a market, small or big as it may be. Fact is, one cannot stop or increase abruptly the flow of cash, goods or services, except by how the market dynamics work. Or do authorities not know.
The barring of street vendors at the Khwairamband, an everyday affair, be it an effort to regulate traffic or any other reason, calls for strictures to be placed on the authorities, as it does not conform to sales or salesmanship, both con-current to business. In catering in the interest of a few they are disrupting the whole logic of a traditional marketplace. The flow of merchandise in this market was maintained alongside the problem of space, traffic, parking areas etc. earlier too.
Everyone knows that coming into the second decade of its latest avatar, nothing much has improved by way of business at the Khwairamband, the three odd structures of the Ima market being testimony. The old people, who were a common mainstay of shopping, find it difficult to even climb up the stairs, and carry down their goods once they have bought something. There’s more to it than meets the eye. The vendors too get tired, travelling up and down from adjacent to Imphal, with air pollution and ailments of the body common to all, not only vendors. For the very poor, it’s a good day if they sell maybe a hundred or two rupees, as they travel with light baskets.
Even the vendors, who were known as Imas, or mother, in common parlance then, do not do much business and what they bring to the market is much more than they actually sell, unlike in earlier decades when the Ima markets were swarming with buyers throughout the day, which again shows that there’s something wrong with the way things are being organised. Vegetables, fish, local clothing, etc, especially, have a ready market and there is a huge consumption of these in the Imphal areas itself. If they are not selling and if the Imas are going to be left with most of their baggage unsold how are they going to survive; because that in effect is a big question. They have pressing concerns like affording the cost of their, and most times their families living, even average expenses. Then they get tired so much through the day.
In Nagamapal especially, which was earlier a shoppers delight, there’s no cover to save you from the hot sun. The dismantling of the Nagamapal shopping sheds was perhaps the worst decision made by the authorities then. Something should be done to restore the market to its earlier abundance. Sales are made according to an uninterrupted need for give and take. You can’t expect a market to suddenly start selling like hot cakes just because you have redone or refurbished it to suit the pockets of a few rich and powerful people, leaving the vulnerable vendors with not a single choice to voice their likes, convenience, comfort and sensibilities.
If the authorities have foolishly done so, just to pocket funds for themselves, in the past, they should now make amends by giving the Imas their due place. Otherwise too, the Imas have been misused much by various groups to be foolhardy representatives of Imphal. One should know they are common businesswomen who are better off managing their cash and goods.
The problem of non-Meitei vendors should be addressed as well. They too need some space at Khwairamband. The demand today is cosmopolitan – not receded and dull remoteness. Especially the Meitei Imas, their status shouldn’t be harmed. They become poverty-stricken women trying to eke out a meagre living, and not succeeding too at that. They are the image of Khwairamband. The sense of respectability the Imas had, one or two decades back, is sadly lost now. It has to be restored before we lose touch with who we are as a people, our traditions, how we see this land. As of now everybody stands a loser if things continue this way. There has to be an easy flow of pedestrians, traffic, vehicular parking, cash, goods, everything. Nothing should be blocked or barricaded, or business restricted to hours, as in the case of the street vendors. Police interference in business, as a matter of disciplining it, happens nowhere in the world.
Leader Writer – RK Lakhi Kant