Lockdown sees sprouting of ‘corona’ keithel in capital city

IMPHAL, 4th Jul: With each passing day, it is getting crystal that the worst-affected due to the lockdown in the state are the daily wage earners with many leaving the comfort and safety of homes amid the prevailing Covid-19 situation to ply their wares on the roadsides consequently leading to rise in new localised markets.
In the initial stages of the lockdown, all market places remained under shutdown. Although, restrictions under the lockdown have been eased in some sectors, the government has still not given permission for opening of the three Khwairamband Ima Keithels, temporary market or trade activities of street vendors.
It can be said that despite the danger of Covid-19 disease, women vendors are coming out to sell their wares on the roadside so as to provide two square meals to their family. There has been steady increase in number of roadside markets especially in residential pockets of the valley area with women vendors even calling it ‘Corona keithel’ (market).
A random glance around Imphal area would enable one to experience sprouting up of many new temporary markets, mostly run by women vendors who used to operate at Khwairamband Keithel, women vendors coming from faraway places or by the locals.
Speaking to TPC some of the women vendors revealed that they started selling consumer goods at the local markets as there were no other work option left due to the lockdown. Many of the women vendors, who prior to the coronavirus had steady income, conceded that meeting requirement of their households is now dependent on hawking items of daily needs. Apart from those settling around the capital city, many women vendors from distant places arrive around 2 am to Imphal and to find a place to market their products.
Though, it is not convenient to set up new trading sites, assistance by local clubs and organisations have been helpful in ensuring that the women vendors do not return home empty-handed. Nevertheless, some women vendors disclosed that they face serious issues over seating arrangements.
While it difficult to ensure strict adherence to the SOP issued by the authorities, especially in such makeshift markets, close monitoring by volunteers of local clubs have been able to ensure that no ugly incidents ensue.
Among others, a new market has sprung up at Palace gate section of Yairipok-Andro road also known as Andro Parking where many vendors have set up shops. Initially the market was situated around the road junction leading to Ningthem Pukhri, Wangkhei with both flanks occupied from midnight itself, but with proper management by members of Maharaj Garibniwaj Memorial Club (MGM), Ningthem Pukhri Mapal there is a semblance of order.
The club has already made future plans for the market after consulting with women vendors and have decided to have carts like in other states, so that the vendors can continue selling even after Lockdown is lifted. The club has also reportedly started negotiation with authority concerned on this matter, informed some members to this daily.
Oriental Club, Khongman Mangjil too has been working to help women vendors as much as they can, as a part of their initiative to ease hardships on commoners during the lockdown period. They have constructed a small market using tarpaulin canvas for them and plan to make the market a permanent one.
One more temporary market that has surfaced up is at the ground of The Ideal Club, Sagolband Tera Keithel which is being managed by the Club with strict abidance to the SOP issued by the government.
The market has vending space reserved to women traders coming from faraway places as well as tribal vendors. Though there is no plan to continue it after lifting of the lockdown, the Club is presently welcoming everyone to sustain their livelihood. Another new market is shaping up at Kyamgei, NH-102 near the Manipur University, Canchipur with the permission of the DC and backed by the local MLA.
The local MLA has reportedly assured that the place will now be developed as full-fledged permanent market.
Most vendors in these new markets expressed strong desire for continuation of providing trading space even after lockdown. They also shared that if more such markets are established it would help ease chaotic scenes normally witnessed at Khwairamband Keithel.

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