Amid prevailing shutdown in Kashmir, flea markets that were earlier confined to Sundays only are now coming up every day in Srinagar with street vendors setting up their stalls in and around the commercial hub Lal Chowk.
The business establishments, including shops, continue to remain shut since August 5 when the Parliament scrapped the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and bifurcated the State into two Union Territories.
However, since late September, the street vendors started setting up stalls from TRC corner to Batamaloo here to earn their livelihood. These flea markets witness a good rush of shoppers on a daily basis. Prior to uncertainty in Kashmir, the street vendors were erecting their stalls only on Sundays especially on TRC to Regal Chowk stretch. But now it has become a permanent feature post August 5.
While the markets remain open from morning 7 am to 10 pm as a “relaxation period” during the shutdown, street vendors install their stalls early morning and wind up their business in the evening. Even some shopkeepers have been seen selling their goods on stalls set up on streets.
“I have goods worth lakhs of rupees in my shop and godown. It was summer wear collection and as winter has set in, there is no chance to find customers for it. Now I sold some of it to street vendors at throwaway prices and some I am selling myself on a stall set up outside my shop,” Khurshid Ahmad, a ready-made garment owner, said.
Another shopkeeper, who has set up a stall on a street, said he was finding it difficult to sit idle at home. “I was running out of money and sitting at home was another torture. So I decided to set up a stall and make some earnings on the street,” he said.
“We have to spend almost half of our earnings on rent of the shop and other expenses but the earnings are zero. If we open our shops we may be targeted by the militants. Even we fear militants may someday target the street vendors also for disobeying their diktats to observe shutdown. But there is no other option than to earn our livelihood,” he added.
The trade community in Kashmir have suffered a huge loss due to the ongoing shutdown.