COVID-19: Traffic back on roads, but business not the same at crossroads for traffic signal vendors

Last Updated 29 May 2020, 07:26 IST

Sheela Devi, who is waiting on a footpath trying to get some respite from the scorching heat with her two kids, rushes as soon as the traffic signal turns red and knocks on a car's window trying to sell dusters and window screens.

However, no one rolls down the window anymore, she says, as everyone is scared of coronavirus. Dejected she moves back to the pavement, to check on her kids and waits for the signal to turn red again.

Sheela Devi, is among scores of traffic signal vendors who were happy to see vehicles back on roads after several restrictions of lockdown imposed due to COVID-19 were eased. Struggling to make ends meet for two months and with unsold stocks lying with them, the vendors rushed to traffic signals to earn their livelihood. But business at the crossroads, may not be same for quite some time.

"This is the way we have earned livelihood for the past seven years. My husband goes to a different signal, I go to a different one. I didn't stop it even when I was pregnant but had to when the lockdown was announced. Now the traffic is back as usual but its not the same. Even if I am covering my face, people simply refuse to even roll down their windows to have a look, forget buying something," she told PTI.

"I have to get my kids with me because my husband can't take care of them during day. He also has to do other chores like sourcing stocks to sell and other responsibilities," she added.

For years, the livelihood of these vendors has been directed by the changing of traffic lights from green to amber to red. For them the red light means business, amber to quickly move away to the other side before it turns green. These traffic signal vendors negotiate the busy crossings for business in a matter of seconds.

36-year-old Tribhuvan Kumar says business may not be the same for quite some time now.

"People will always be scared because of the virus now. The goods we sell vary seasonally — ranging from dusters, wipers, tissue papers, battery chargers, books, steering covers, window screens to flowers, magazines and toys. We have always done it successfully within a few minutes, perhaps seconds, to coax the commuters into buying their goods before the traffic light turns green. But it's not the same scenario anymore," he added.

Malti, whose kids go to different community kitchens to collect food by the time she is back from the signal, said, "Two months were still manageable somehow, but to go on there has to be some business. Earlier, something or the other always worked. Sometimes simply waving your goods was enough, sometimes a smile worked but we had to use our persuasive skills in a matter of seconds to influence commuters to buy our goods, but now there is a limited chance".

"At times policemen stop us if we are not covering our face but mostly they allow us to make attempts to sell," she added.

The nationwide lockdown was first imposed from March 25 with an aim to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus that claimed 4,706 lives and infected 1.65 lakh people in the country.

The lockdown was extended upto May 31 with several restrictions eased in non-containment zones. India's economy has been severely hit by the lockdown with thousands of people losing their means of livelihood across the country.

(Published 29 May 2020, 07:23 IST)

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