Street vegetable vendors struggling to fight hunger during the lockdown
An elderly lady is selling vegetables on the Kaushaltar-Balkot road. Along with her, a couple and some customers are lined up, all selling or buying vegetables.
Appearing at the scene with sticks, two policemen suddenly shouted, “Didn’t we tell you not to sell?”
The old woman’s face turned pale. Her eyes filled with terror. She hurriedly carried the vegetables and put it all on a cart, placed at a short distance. The woman next to her, however, was reluctant to do so, “We don’t want to see you selling when we come back,” the angry policeman warned.
The old woman breathed a sigh of relief. And looking at us, she said, “What to do, dear? COVID is going to kill us in different ways, even as we are alive.”
“This is such fresh and good spinach! How can someone not sell it? It will get rotten if not sold. But it is difficult to sell like this in secret, hiding from the police.”
As she spoke, her eyes shifted towards the policemen. “They might come again, dear,” she said, slowly.
Sanimaya and her husband used to sell maize in a nearby cart. Along with maize, they also sold mustard, spinach, and bean sprouts. Now, their routine of selling maize has stopped. It is scary to sell vegetables. She said, “They don’t let us make a living. This was our means of living. The medicine expenditure, children’s fees, evening and morning arrangements for food are all covered by this. The lockdown has made it extremely difficult for us,” she says.
It is not that Sanimaya is unafraid of COVID. Listening to the daily news and the number of infected people, she is scared too. Yet, her biggest fear is that her family will starve.
“It is not that I want to sell like this in the streets during a pandemic. However, this is what I have to do. If not sold, it will all rot. Instead, I will have to bear the costs. I have small children and they need to be fed,” says Sanimaya, in a somber voice.
This problem is not only of Sanimaya and the old lady. Merchants selling vegetables at the big vegetable market in Gatthaghar are also facing the same plight.
Krishna Karki from Dhulikhel is in the vegetable market day and night. Without removing the mask on his face, he meets hundreds of customers daily. He is not in a position to stay at home by closing down his business. “Shut down the business and then what? Starve to death?” he asks.
Sharmila, who is from Sindhuli, has a small child at home. Without selling vegetables, her kitchen remains silent. She rushes to go home after finishing selling vegetables. Having to trade vegetables comes with a fear that her child might get infected. “I sell vegetables at the risk of my life,” says Sharmila.
Even though all businesses in the city are quiet, the vegetable market is crowded in the morning and evening. The big vegetable market closes at 8 in the morning, but few remain open for a day.
Despite the government’s prohibitory orders, small vegetable sellers are compelled to sell.