Shillong: Hawkers and street vendors came out on the streets of Shillong demanding an alternative after the lockdown was extended till June 14.

On Monday morning, hawkers under the umbrella of Street Vendors and Hawkers Union staged a protest at Khyndailad (Police Bazaar). Hawkers gathered at Khyndailad and Motphran and attempted to sell their goods.

The hawkers union felt that the government forced them to come out to the streets with no income support. The hawkers agreed to leave the place after local authorities assured the protesters that their concerns would be taken up with higher authorities for an early decision.

Meghalaya and Greater Shillong Progressive Hawkers and Street Vendors Association leader Angela Rangad said that the hawkers and street vendors have come out to the streets due to extreme distress and frustration. “One and half months of lockdown and inability to have a livelihood and to earn. The government has not given any income support. What was promised to them last year never came. Rs 2,100 is nothing, but still, in a time of crisis, it helps. Yet, even that has never reached the people who should have gotten it,” said Rangad. She added that even construction labourers were promised Rs 5,000 compensation. but it never reached them.

The Association also felt that after one and half months of lockdown there is no plan on the part of the government of how to ease the woes of those most marginalized, no announcement of income support, no announcement of ensuring food grains and not just rice, there is a need of lentils, oil and proteins.

“The rich can manage home delivery. We are just asking for simple rations, and yet the government isn’t doing that. The most marginalised don’t even have health coverage in MHIS, and the government has not even said that if you get sick with COVID, we will take care of you. All these things make it so difficult for those on the margins to survive,” said Rangad.

Recalling how last year the government had failed to think about the hawkers and street vendors, Rangad said that they had to keep asking the authorities when hawkers could start selling their goods.

“The govt should be thinking ground up, first the weakest. The last and the least should be thought about first because the government must ensure that they are safe. Similarly, with farmers we are seeing them throwing away their produce after months of hard work, there is no plan of how to ensure that they manage to sell their produce. It shows that the government is not thinking about those people for whom they should be standing actually. So if they continue like this, it is quite obvious that people will come out on the streets,” added Rangad.

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