Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Urban street vendors and autowalas struggling to meet ends in Old City

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Hyderabad: Push cart vendors, hawkers and daily wagers and autowalas mostly across the old city continue to struggle with running their business three weeks into Unlock 1.0, says a short survey done by city-based NGO, Helping Hand Foundation. 

The NGO, re-surveyed a group of 150 autowalas telephonically. 82 per centof the them said that the flow of customers is low after the lock down has eased and the two-passenger norm is impacting their daily incomes.

88 per cent said consequently there is a dip in their daily income by more than half due to a smaller number of passengers plying and the two-passenger restriction. 70 per cent of them said, they have autos on finance and the EMIs coupled with other monthly priorities like rent, food and essentials. This is putting an added stress to their existence from the last four months.

It may be recalled an earlier occupational survey of Old City done by the NGO, in Ramadan and in the middle of lockdown across 50 slums and 2500 households had revealed that the autowalas constitute almost one fourth of the daily wage earners in the Old City. Almost one-third of them suffer from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular, and other chronic diseases.

HHF, also interviewed 125 hawkers in and around Charminar area, to assess if post Unlock 1.0 there has been any traction in their daily income and found to its surprise that 75 per centof the hawkers who had some working capital left consumed it during the lock down for the essential needs and are now struggling to mobile fresh working capital to kick start their business (This is an incomprehensible sentence?). 

The other one fourth who were able to resume selling their produce as they had left over stocks but said that the business is  40 to 50 per cent lower than the pre-lockdown days as customers are not coming like before due to fear of coronavirus spreading and are pushing them to sell for lesser price. This has further reduced their margins and incomes.

An earlier survey done an US based researcher in old city through HHF, last year had observed that access to low cost institutional finance is pathetic in Old City. Most of them ultimately rely on money lenders for finance which further pushes them into a vicious circle if business does not pick up quickly.

Similarly, another 50 urban street vendors in near Gudimalkapur, Rythu Bazar and Mandi, who sell vegetables & fruits, also said their business have gone down by 40 to 60 per cent lower and most of the times they are forced to carry back the stock which often gets spoiled.

HHF also spoke to 75 other daily wage earners working in Irani Cafes, restaurants and other eateries, they said they have lost their jobs due to the self-service model has been introduced with COVID protocol being enforced.

Safe distancing has resulted in the elimination of their jobs. Many other daily wage labour are sitting at home and still have not resumed work.

“The situation with daily wagers, particularly hawkers and autowalas remains grim due to low business, people staying indoors and fear and stigma with COVID -19 spreading its tentacles in the Old City,” said Mr. Mujtaba Hasan Askari, Helping Hand Foundation.

It is reliably understood from the street vendors that GHMC is conducting a survey of the urban street vendors and collecting details to provide access to credit to the vendors those who have started vending on or before 24th March.

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