The pitiable state of the Ernakulam fish market is driving away buyers and has taken its toll on the prospects of fish vendors who have been doing business there for generations.
Narrow paths with hardly any space for customers to move around, bad odour, and thoroughly unhygienic conditions have been troubling the market for some time now. “The condition of the market is such that families will think twice before coming here in this era of swanky malls and air-conditioned fish markets,” said M.K. Majeed, area secretary of the CITU-affiliated Matsya Vitharana Samskarana Thozhilali Union.
In a city like Kochi where almost every household has a two-wheeler, customers who come to the market in their vehicles have no facility for parking. The market earlier had entrances wide enough for lorries, before the space was lost to encroachment over the years, said Mr. Majeed, who has been a vendor at the market for over four decades. When the city was a municipality, water tanker lorries used to enter the market to wash the market premises. The practice ceased about two decades ago.
Thanks to the constant pressure of the fish vendors, the Kochi Corporation provided a roof over the market and laid a new red oxide flooring in 1999. A tank was also erected and motor and hose provided to pump in water from a nearby well. Hardly three months after it was erected, the motor, tank, and the hose disappeared.
In a market where the vendors and buyers include aged women, the bathrooms in use are far from hygienic. The outlets from these bathrooms are connected directly to drains through which the water pipelines also passes.
The modernisation of the market has been a longstanding demand of fish vendors here. “We have come to learn that funds had been allocated under the JNNURM for the modernisation more than a year ago,” said Majeed.
He said that the union will take strong protest action unless the Corporation takes immediate steps to improve the conditions of the market.