It’s been 17 years since the BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) asked shopkeepers at Cox town in East Bengaluru to ‘temporarily’ shift to the pavement while they build a new market facility. Six months was the estimated time given to these vendors. Little did they expect that these very six months would extend to nearly two decades, this despite the BBMP building a structure to accommodate the vendors.
“I’ve been here for all these years, I suppose I will go on until the government does something,” says one of the shopkeepers, patiently arranging a stack of vegetables.
The vendors, who all work on the pavements in front of Cox town’s Tennis court and maternity hospital, sell all varieties of fresh vegetables, fruit, poultry, mutton and sea food. It’s not uncommon for the crowds coming to the market to spill out onto the street. The narrow roads cannot accommodate too many people at a time.
On Monday morning, the Cox town market vendors held a protest in front of the building which is rightfully theirs, but which they have been locked out of. The posters that they held said “Dear BBMP Commissioner, open Cox Town market, give us mukti from the footpath” and “Cox town vendors, care of pavement for 17 years.”
The reason cited for the non-allocation of the shops is that there are no sanitary fixtures or electrical connections in the shops. Vendors say that the building does not have a water connection, and is yet to have a borewell sunk into the premises.
The BBMP often expresses concerns about cleanliness and shut down stalls around the city. The seafood and poultry shops in Cox town are situated very close to the entrance of the Cox town maternity home, and though the vendors try their best to keep it down, there is often a bad smell.
However, a public health doctor, Sylvia Karpagam, says that the problem is not just of the vendors. “There is poor investment on the part of the government when it comes to research and training in handling the meat and in the disposal of waste. We cannot just blame the shops and then shut them down, because a lot of people rely on these places for their food. Such measures only benefit bigger businesses in the sector when smaller meat shops are forced to shut,” she adds.
Instead, she says that the BBMP should train the shopkeepers on how to handle the meat hygienically, with proper safety equipment, and should take care of the disposal of waste.
The BBMP is quick to act when there is a garbage infraction, and take measures to fine them, as TNM has previously reported.
However, Dr Slyvia notes that the government takes no measures to dispose of animal waste. “The waste is nutritious and can be used for other purposes like to feed fish. But the government has not made adequate investment in this segment. They should hire a public health official to train them, so that society in general can benefit,” she concludes.