Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Shahgunj Mandi in Aurangabad reduced to rubble

Shahgunj Mandi -- the only established source of procuring vegetables, fruits, dry fruits and spices for old city residents, has been reduced to rubble by the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation (AMC). Surprisingly, the stay order given by the district sessions court for some of the shops was conveniently ignored by the AMC. With the demolition of the structure built way back in 1966, some of the educated traders from the market were found running from pillar to post with the copies of the stay order, while the remaining were cursing the officials for depriving them of the place that provided them their bread and butter. LT visited the site to have a first-hand experience of the situation.
The very entry to the site reminds one of the unpopular scenes of debris often shown on television sets from the war-torn countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. Many burqa-clad women buying vegetables and many other unfamiliar faces taking advantage of the situation and laying their hands on steel rods, bricks and other things, add a special effect to the imagination of a war-torn Afghanistan. The dust in association with the air formed a thick layer, minimising the visibility in broad daylight to mere few feet, obviously giving a tough time for visitors to inhale oxygen sans dust. This dust resulted from the overtime-working of many JCBs demolishing the market structure consisting 173 shops on a land that allegedly was never owned by the AMC!
"Our family of five brothers and their children had entirely been dependent on this market for the past 40 years. It took just a couple of days to ruin our bread earning place," says Shakil Choudhari, who is at the forefront of the legal process on behalf of the thousands of market dependents. Adding further Choudhari said, "We showed them the stay order copies, but neither the AMC officials nor the police paid any heed. We are sure there is a very big conspiracy in demolition of this strong and large structure as the AMC is not ready to follow the legal procedure."
It was also learnt that JCBs had to change the digging buckets multiple times while demolishing the structure, making the claims of the AMC that the structure had become very weak, to fall flat on the face. Many people were seen taking away steel rods and bricks from the debris using vehicles. A nearby scrap shop was readily buying the 16 mm high quality steel rods stolen from the debris, for a paltry Rs 20/kg.  Most of the regular vegetable vendors were in a deep state of shock, as they were totally dependent on the Mandi for their livelihood. "Bhapkar (AMC commissioner) held several meetings with the vegetable vendors and traders of Aurangpura market, made an alternate arrangement for them, but what about us?" asked distressed Ramesh Sable.Making serious allegations, Sable added, "Bhapkar is being biased to the people in Shahgunj area just because many Muslim traders and vendors operate here. For the last two days, I am giving just Rs 30 to my wife to meet the household expenses. It is very unfortunate that few AMC officials in connivance of wealthy builders are trying to make big money at the cost of poor people and we are sure destiny will make them pay for this."
Sable has been vending vegetables for more than four decades, along with her widow mother, and his five-member family totally depends on the earnings made by him.
"Vegetables are getting wasted for want of buyers for the last two days. For us now only bleak future awaits," said Sonabai Baburao, who even threatened to end her life if no solution was found out soon. Daily visitors to the market are also upset with the move of the AMC for not making an alternate arrangement for the old city residents to buy vegetables and necessary items. One such regular visitor, Mohammed Akmal Khan, an architect by profession said, "The decision of the AMC to demolish such a flourishing market without making an alternate arrangement, shows the far-sightedness of the civic body, apart from indicating its ulterior motives."
Adding further Khan said, "With no proper market in place, most of the vegetables are getting wasted, while the remaining vegetables are being sold at higher prices, making it more difficult for the common man already reeling under the blow of inflation." Some have even suggested that temporary market can be shifted to Shahgunj bus stand. Owing to the lack of space for vegetable vending, many poor vendors are sleeping all night along the roadside so that the place is used for vending vegetable next day.
There are tens of hundreds of such cases in Shahgunj Mandi, wherein the bread winners are not sure of tomorrow and are blaming their fate in addition to cursing the AMC officials.  Whatever may be the fate of the vegetable vendors, one thing is for sure that the demolition move will make cooking food more dearer for the residents.

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