When I visited Diglipur recently, There i saw a vegetable market. I thought to visit the market and find what is the condition of rates of vegetable and fruits in this part of India? I wanted to search for anything which I can take back to Port Blair. In my mind the notion was that vegetables must be cheap since farming is one the prime occupation in Diglipur. Diglipur is the Northern most part of A &N Islands and the whole island is known as North Andaman.
When I entered the market I saw a partition of NET. In the view there were many shops filled with lots of vegetables and various other things but no one was there inside that area. When I asked one shop vendor siting just next to this Net, he replied today this market is closed, it’s a holiday today- being Sunday. I asked about the net and asked how these shops are protected. I mean how and who protects these shops. All the shops are full of vegetables. He pointed towards a man and said he is the watchman. It was surprising to me that this Net acts as boundary between the closed and open market. On this side many shop vendors are sitting and selling their produce. The close and open markets, both are under same roof. I asked this person who has hired you? Municipality, Panchayat or anyone else? He replied the shop owners have hired me and they pay salary on monthly basis. I asked why the gram Panchayat cannot hire you? He said I don’t know. Other thing I came to know that the vendors sitting on the other side pay to this watchman on daily basis. Amal Hawladar clarified that each shop vendors give him Rs 10 daily. I just tried to count how many shops were there. I could count only upto 18 or 19 which were visible from the point where I was standing. Few vendors were sitting on steps and below steps those I could not count. But he gets 180 or 200 daily from such vendors. Since it was Sunday that’s why vendors were less there.
I asked Amal, what or which vegetable I should buy to take back to Port Blair? He told lady’s finger is of Rs 40 or 30 and Pumpkin also. Bitter guard is for Rs 80. He said you take cucumber. I will give you for Rs 10 to 15.
I asked him how he sells? Whether he grows these vegetables? and/or how he sells his produce at farm? He told I bring my vegetable here in market and vendors who purchase in wholesale purchase from me. I give them at the rate of Rs 7/kg. Wholesale vendors take it to either Port Blair or Mayabunder or Rangat etc. He pointed towards a person and said he is a wholesale vendor.
I saw a man with a big bag in hand discussing with shop owners and bargaining rates. I approached him and asked him what he doing? He said I am buying some vegetables and will sell them in market at Mayabunder.
He said come sit here pointing towards the small boundary of this market. We sat there and he started telling his story. I asked him tell me what are the difficulties he faces in this trade.
He started telling his saga, the moment he started his face became full of so many emotions. Anger was there, frustration, depression, anxiety and the sense that he is not able to do much as per his wishes or ambitions. He was very angry with the state of affairs at the market. He has a shop in that closed market. Since today is holiday so he cannot open his shop. He also told with lot of anger that if I sit here in this portion today people object to it, why they object for me? He says whatever I am doing is for stomach, putting his hand on his stomach. He told he has family children and all so he has to work for them all and earn for their livelihood. What he shall do? He cannot sit idle. Thus he buys vegetables from this market and takes them to Mayabunder and sells them. It was already 6 or 6.30 that time. It was dark there. I thought at what time he goes to Mayabunder and when he will return back to Diglipur and open his shop.
His name was Nimayi. I said it is name of God- Bhagwan. He laughed and said yes you are right.
He put his foot on floor and told there were 28 such squares in this market originally and I am since beginning I am the oldest surviving shop owner here. For so many years I am selling vegetable here. But still he felt that he was unable to materialise the profits.
I asked why there is no cold storage? Is that a problem for you or not? He immediately replied why there should be cold storage, what benefit it will give? People will buy from these sellers which sell the fresh vegetable from their fields. If I keep in cold storage and sell it next day nobody will buy it. He was very angry as he pointed towards the vegetable vendors sitting beyond the steps of market. He told there are so many shop vendors sitting on the road side also. How can I survive? They are selling all over the road but see here I am. And cannot open my shop?. So he was angry with the increasing number of shop vendors selling on the roadside. And he wanted to do something so that he can earn. But I think he is frustrated with the system which is unable to provide him support.
I asked a general question, why there is no cooperative initiative so that people can buy at Diglipur and sell their produce at Port Blair? What are the hindrances, or what are the difficulties? They all said they don’t know any such things.
Whether I was being a pseudo-intellectual? I myself had no answers to these questions? What are difficulties faced by farmers at Diglipur? What are their daily requirements/ expectations from system? I had asked all of them whether they know any initiative taken by Agriculture, Cooperative departments they all denied that they know anything. But being a dreamer I kept on thinking what is the problem?
Searching the market I found this boy, so young, so innocent. (since at-least he agreed to talk to me, sparing his precious time). He was busy with his work but I interrupted him. He should be angry at me, but he was innocent. He is Subrato das, a student of class X at Senior Secondary School Diglipur but his home is at DB gram (Desh Bandhu Gram) few km away from Diglipur. I asked how he comes daily to school. He said he comes daily to school either by bus or with father and sometimes return by taking auto. I thought why he can’t ride a bicycle? Is the road is not good or the distance is huge. Or what? I don’t know? But thing is, He has to visit by covering some distance to attend school. Class X requires more time for studies, preparation for CBSE Board exams. Students at Port Blair- the city attend many tuition classes. Day and night parents are seen busy transmuting their wards from here and there for tuition classes, even within their working timings of Office they take out time for their wards. But here is this boy busy with selling vegetables in market in evening. I did not ask whether he does it daily? Or only for today he has come to market.
He could not have come only for that day. Since if that is the case, he could not have got opportunity to occupy a space in market, for which shop owners/vendors are over jealous. For such things and for profit they fight for space, for attention of costumers, and sometimes they fight with costumers if they park their two wheelers in front of the shop.
When I told this boy (subrato) that I don’t have bag to carry vegetables, he immediately rushed to one shop in corner and asked in Bengali for a bag. He got one bag for me. I thought he is kind enough to give me a bag. But to my surprise he said Rs 10 is added for this bag. I was shocked. I had purchased lady’s finger and Brinjal totalling to Rs 40, and if Rs10 is added that cost me Rs 50. That was not a deal of profit for me I thought. Lady’s fingers were also not very good. But thinking inside my head as all the Hindu people think that it is humanity to help others sepceially if this is a boy doing hard work to sell vegetables in market