Covid19 pandemic has destroyed livelihoods across the board. But one of the most affected sections are the street vendors and hawkers here in the capital. They have been rendered jobless and it is anybody’s guess how they have been managing to run their kitchens at home during this time of extreme deprivation. When the lockdowns were lifted and the city was allowed to open up shops and commercial centers, the street vendors remained out of the purview of this order.
But as the age old adage goes, a hungry person is an angry person, and a hungry and angry person cannot be denied for long. Keeping them suppressed may work for some time, but like a coiled spring pushed down by pressure they will spring up once that pressure is gone. This is exactly what happened in the case of the street vendors of Ïewduh-Motphran, Khyndailad-Police bazaar and Laitumkhrah, which are the main markets of the city. As long as the police and local headmen with their volunteers kept the pressure they remained away from the streets only to flow back when they were gone. But this respect for authority has worn out as the government has failed to address their issues, which are as basic as the law of the stomach, that it needs to be filled. This wearing out of the patience of a people, who are otherwise timid and submissive, could be seen in the way the vendors have struck back at the administration when they refused to move out of their places on the streets. Their declaration that they will not move away from their vending spots is a warning to the administration that the people in dire need can only be pushed so far. The strong argument from the vendors has come as an embarrassment for the government, which has failed to provide their proper vending spaces over the years and the issue has become compounded by the problems in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The lesson for the government is that the long pending problems of people need to be solved and not just pushed under the carpet and that a long suffering people will definitely fight back when it is their livelihood and the lives of their children and loved ones which is at stake. It is all very well for salaried government employees to be on the job to keep the street vendors out of the way in the name of implementing the Covid19 safety protocols but when confronted by people who need to be in the streets to earn their daily bread they lose the moral right to wield the stick. Their job is plainly limited to ensuring that the street vendors and their customers uphold the safety protocols of social distancing, ensure face masks are worn and that hand sanitizers are available along with hand washing facilities. The alternative is to use force to push them out and face a law and order situation added to possibilities of starvation deaths.