Police ban hawkers on traditional days of Juna Bazaar stalls
This arbitrary shut down has vendors asking for permanent solutions
The Juna bazaar in Pune has been in existence for almost two centuries, when vendors assembled at the Shaniwarwada to sell livestock and other goods and commodities. For the last 60 years, Juna Bazaar has been having open sales with stalls taking up road space every Wednesday and Sunday at the Shahir Amir Shaikh chowk establishing itself as an iconic occasional market that sells antiques, used objects or inexpensive and counterfeit daily use products.
However, on July 23, an order was issued by the Joint Police Commissioner (Law and Order) Ravindra Shisve, imposing a 30-day experimental ban on selling any kind of goods at the Juna Bazaar chowk. The order, which was issued after a proposal made by the traffic control branch, also declared the area between the Juna Bazaar chowk to Kumbharve chowk as a no-parking zone. The decision has not gone down well by the Juna Bazaar vendors as they pointed out the lack of an alternative resolution by the officials.
Before a vendor can join the Juna Bazaar, s/he needs to register their business with the Juna Bazaar Vikrete Sanghatna (Vendors’ Association). Currently, there are almost 700 registered vendors and dealers along with 350-400 unregistered newly joined members, 70 percent of whose livelihoods depend solely on the two business days per week viz. Wednesday and Sunday.
Before the order was issued, DCP Pankaj Deshmukh had visited the space and surveyed the area, post which they decided to shut down Juna Bazaar. The vendors were asked to co-operate and not put up any stalls on Wednesday. A team is expected to visit the area on Saturday and mark the road to allot 4”x6” space for each vendor to put up their stalls temporarily.
Speaking about this arrangement, another vendor said, “4”x6” is too small for our stalls. The owner himself will take up 2”x2” space to sit within, there won’t be much space left to display our products. The officials should have been a bit considerate of our business.” Another vendor claimed that even if the team does not show up on Saturday to mark the road, vendors will put up their stalls on Sunday regardless and continue with their business as customary.
Harshal Tathe, who owns a utensils stall at the bazaar says, “I barely earn Rs.10,000 a month which isn’t enough for monthly groceries, children’s schooling, maintenance and rent. And now they’re targetting our only source of income. If there’s no proper solution, how are we to survive and feed our families? Officials haven’t provided us any permanent alternative resolution yet.”
An ironware dealer who did not wish to be named, highlights the lack of a proper solution saying, “Earlier we occupied one entire side of the road. We were asked in 2012 to occupy only half of the road owing to traffic issues. And today, citing increasing traffic again, they have shut down the bazaar. Traffic will continue to rise; will they repeatedly ask us to move or shut down wherever we go? We want a permanent alternative – maybe in the form of a commercial space.”
Another vendor, Ganesh Kadam says, “Footpaths, toilets, even benches on roads are constantly renovated. The PMC can spare some budget and use it to build us a permanent commercial space instead. Officials will be praised for conserving a historic market and the standard of our business will increase too. We are ready and capable to repay any loans that will be levied on us for this project. We have dedicated places for fashion streets, we need one for Juna Bazaar now.” He further added that suggestions were made to use the Shivaji Akhada Maidan located on Veer Santaji Ghorpadi Road for two days a week to set up the bazaar, but the vendors received no response from officials.
Vendors are of the opinion that officials have repeatedly tried to target them and oppress them over the years. Some vendors have questioned PMC’s ignorant eye towards the deaths caused last year after an illegal hoarding fell at Juna Bazaar Chowk, whilst continuing to object vendors who legally operate their stalls at the bazaar. One such vendor states, “Our market was known for selling old and cheap items. Today, we also sell cheap and first-copy or second-copy items. We don’t sell any stolen goods here. While multiple city areas scuffle with all sorts of crime, Commissioner Office chooses to ignore them and target authentic vendors like us.”
The Commissioner’s office has also been accused for depriving the vendors of any proper communication with the respective officials. “They don’t want anything to be on record. We have written several letters vis-à-vis possible solutions, but haven’t received any written reply. There’s no documentation of any promises made or assurances given to us verbally. In fact, us vendors haven’t been given any license either because it will mean acknowledging our community, which in future will give us a legal edge in case of any court proceedings against the officials”, said a senior member of the Juna Bazaar Vikrete Sanghatna (Vendors’ Association). Talks of providing a license to these vendors have been going on since 2010 between the community and officials, however no conforming action has been taken yet.
Albeit vendors can’t put up stalls on the road, they have started inviting customers into their houses to sell goods. “We can’t afford to lose even a single day of business. Inviting customers in our houses is does invade our privacy, but at the end of the day we need all the money that we can,” said one of the electronic items’ dealer. The brunt of this decision is also being borne by the customers who claim they have missed out on several cheap products and exchange deals. Shahid Akhtar owns a mobile shop in Tapkir Galli and regularly visits Juna Bazaar to buy old electronic items and cheap mobile accessories. “I used to purchase mother boards, mobile body, covers and other accessories inexpensively at the Bazaar, which I would use to repair customers’ mobile phones in my shop. There aren’t many market places where you’d find these items at cheap prices. This is indirectly a loss for me and/or my customers”, he said.
Conflictingly, vehicle owners who travel the route regularly have appreciated the decision to shut down Juna Bazaar stating they’re relieved that the bazaar won’t cause any traffic problems and nuisance on the streets.
Speaking about possible solutions, PI Kishor Nawande of Faraskhana police station, who is currently overlooking alternative arrangements for the bazaar along with Pune Municipal Corporation stated that, “Temporarily we are planning on shifting them to a playground on Veer Santaji Ghosprade Road; the ground has been cleaned as of today. Vendors will continue with their business on this ground while PMC will continue looking for a permanent space for the Juna Bazaar, which won’t affect the traffic.”
Since the order has been issued, the community has been visited by PMC’s Anti-encroachment head Madhav Jagtap, MLA Dilip Kamble, Councillor Mukhtaar Shaikh, and local Councillor Sadanand Shetti, who have assured the vendors of meeting senior officials to come up with a proper permanent resolution soon.