Srinagar: The coronavirus scare and lockdown in Kashmir has made people either so afraid of going out or unable to do so that street vendors have no one to sell their wares to.
Kashmir has seen many lockdowns over the years but street vendors were always able to eke out a living. Some went door to door to sell while others were able to find buyers through contacts or intermittently when the curfew was relaxed. But this time the situation is entirely different and the vendors know not what to do.
Aijaz Ahmad, 32, a resident of Rainawari and a cloth vendor, said that he used to sell mostly stoles and duppattas at Lal Chowk. “It used to be good business but now it has become difficult for me to earn even a single rupee. I already suffered a lot in the months of lockdown after abrogation of Article 370, but at that time I used to earn by selling vegetables or fruits. This pandemic has left me with nothing except the prospect of begging. I am the lone bread earner of my family. The situation is getting worse by the day and I fear I may die because of starvation,” Aijaz told Kashmir Reader.
Bashir Ahmad, a regular bag seller at Makka Market, similarly said, “I have been selling bags for two years in that market. After the abrogation of Article 370 I was unable to sell on the streets, but I went door to door and earned something. Now, though, everyone is scared and I don’t how we will survive if the situation does not improve.”
Bashir added that the government is providing no help to people like him. “We are not registered anywhere with the government,” he said.
Muzaffar Ahmad, 57, a resident of Lal Bazar who describes himself as a “salesman”, rued that he was not able to provide even a proper meal to his children. “This is a natural disaster. No one can help except the Almighty. There is no business nowadays and I can’t force my boss to give me salary,” he said.
“I was happy that after a long time we had been able to resume business after last year’s restrictions, but the situation has turned even worse,” he said.
Abdul Gafar, 45, a resident of Darish Kadal, said that during the earlier lockdowns he was still able to sell spices, which is the only source of income for his family. “I still make masala (spices) but people are afraid to buy it. I am very much depressed, I don’t what will happen. We only hope that the situation improves soon,” Abdul said.