One step further, please, is what I thought when reading about EA gifting raincoats to the vegetable vendors. Its not an appeal to EA, because EA has already done its ground breaking job. It is an appeal to the government and to the town authorities or whichever is relevant.
The vegetable vendors are largely women. They sit by the footpaths and peddle their wares. Now and again, representatives of the municipal committee come and chase them off the footpaths. I have listened to many of these stories. The women sometimes lose their wares.
Yet they return the next day to the same spot and begin selling again. Who are these women? Why do they put up with such suppression? Isn’t there something very wrong with our governmental skills when we try to prevent mothers and sole providers for their families from earning a little money in the only way open to them? Some are widows, some are single mothers and some were former weavers whose income is now very reduced because their weak eyesight now prevents them from weaving.
Not only do our female local vendors endure the vagaries of weather in all seasons, permits for some of the best spaces for vegetable markets are occupied by male vendors from other states. While one must allow vendors from outside the state to earn their living in an honest way within the state, it seems so unfair that they have the right to carry on trading legally while the women from the state itself are chased off and have to endure their goods being seized. Come on, is that fair?
The women vendors are a mixture of Mao, Poumai, Kachari, Nepali, Angami, Lotha, Rengma and Zeliang. You will find them hurriedly transacting sales in the morning hours at TCP gate. Before 9 am they are all gone because they would be fined if caught. They reappear outside Oking hospital after 4 pm and many shoppers buy their vegetables at this hour. In the monsoons, they sit below plastic sheets and sell their goods.
Why do they sit where they sit? Because that is where people pass by on their way to office or such. Two, they cannot afford the fees for renting a place in the market houses in town. Three, if they move from their present location, people won’t be bothered to seek them out in another location where it might be legal for them to be.
The one bright spot in the stories of the vegetable vendors is the building opposite the Union Baptist Church. In the sixties, women from the Kohima village used to come and sit in the sun and rain, trying to sell a few bundles of vegetables or a packet or two of fermented soybean. One of the oldest vendors said that a kindly gentleman named N.I.Jamir came one day and said he would build them a shelter. Mr Jamir said he was so moved at seeing them sitting outside all day without any shelter, and he followed up his promise by constructing a shelter for the women. How long ago was that? It was in the seventies. No one else has come along after Mr N.I.Jamir to repeat his generous act or imitate what he did for those women. In the meantime, the number of vegetable vendors have greatly multiplied and continue to do what their forebears did.
That brings me to the question this situation raises. How much will roofing cost? The area behind the local ground is partly covered. How much will it cost the government to roof the entire area so that the women can get some shelter from the elements? Surely that can be done for these mothers who are earning an honest living to raise their children?
We need to hear the story of Mr N.I Jamir again. We need to be inspired by his act of compassion again so that our vegetable vendors can be provided shelter and security for their livelihood. Bless you EA for bringing into focus forgotten members of our society. May more good things follow for them.