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Updated: December 13, 2012 14:14 IST

‘Dons in K.R. Market earn more than techies’

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Even the head-load workers have to pay the mafia per sack they unload. File Photo: K. Gopinathan
The Hindu
Even the head-load workers have to pay the mafia per sack they unload. File Photo: K. Gopinathan

Entrenched mafia that has carved out territory for itself fleeces poor vendors, labourers

The arrest of Sudhamanagar councillor Avvai in a bribery case has exposed the vulnerability of roadside vendors and small businesspersons in the K.R. Market area struggling to make ends meet.

The idli vendor, who was fed up with an extortionate power structure and contacted the Lokayukta police who trapped the councillor, was earning barely Rs. 200 to Rs. 300 a day. Hundreds like him endure harassment by the police and politicians on the one hand, and gangsters who force them to pay protection money to keep their business running. Besides the Rs. 20 to Rs. 100 they pay these extortionists, hawkers and vendors also are forced to hand over whatever they are selling free to this mafia.

Meter baddi

Recently, the police arrested some moneylenders on the charge of humiliating, harassing, intimidating and collecting exorbitant interest rates from their borrowers, who are mainly small flower and vegetable vendors, footpath vendors and autorickshaw drivers, who have no dependable collateral to approach banks. In local parlance, this kind of interest rate is ‘meter baddi’, in which interest is calculated on a daily basis.

Under this system, a vendor operating in and around K.R. Market, Kalasipalya, Chamarajpet and Avenue Road, who borrows Rs. 1,000 in the morning has to repay Rs. 1,200 by evening. In fact, they are forced to borrow from the local don; otherwise they are not allowed to carry out their business in the area, police said. The hapless clientele soon find themselves caught in a quicksand of debt.

An offence but…

Charging such high rate of interest is an offence under the Karnataka Moneylenders Act 1961, Karnataka Money Lenders Rules 1965, Karnataka Pawn Brokers Act 1961, Karnataka Pawn Brokers Rules 1966, Karnataka Prohibition of Charging of Exorbitant Interest Act 2004 and The Prize Chits and Money Circulation scheme (Banning) Act 1978, but because of the mafia’s stranglehold, victims hesitate to approach the police, Central Crime Branch officials said. There is some desultory police action in arresting moneylenders for suicide abetment but the CCB admits that meter baddi continues unabated with police, gangsters and local politicians having a share in the pie.

All for protection

The K.R. Market has several godfathers who have carved out the territory among themselves. “Anyone who earns a living in market needs to share a portion of his earnings with the area goon in return for protection,” said a member of the K.R. Market Merchants’ Association.

Apart from paying off the police and politicians, footpath vendors have to pay a whopping Rs.1 lakh as ‘goodwill’ to the local goon.

Lorries too

The lorries that bring loads of fruits and vegetables every day have to get the local goon’s nod to hire hamalis (head-load workers) to unload the cargo. The hamali gets Rs. 5 for every sack, of which he has to give Re. 1 to the goon. Any driver who doesn’t fall in line is not allowed to unload his lorry. Considering some 40,000 sacks are unloaded every day in and around K.R. Market, the mafia makes a tidy sum. “They make more money than software engineers,” a merchants’ association member said.

Certainly everyone involved — police, politicians, mafia — shares the spoils. As the business is very lucrative, gangs have fought and its members killed in the internecine war over territory.

Kudos to the BJP Govt! It is one more feather in the glorious cap of the "Party with a difference".

from:  Yashwanth P
Posted on: Dec 14, 2012 at 13:28 IST

As long as the law is weak in giving justice to people on time and give
stern punishments to the culprits irrespective of their occupation,
position, power, this will continue unabated for ages to come.

from:  Sunil
Posted on: Dec 14, 2012 at 09:29 IST

The person carrying a bag of vegetables on his back speaks volumes of
improper design of the markets in India.The so called IIT of India
have catered to send people to USA or other countries but have not
catered to design proper markets.If a centralised unloading centre
is created in the centre of the mart then they can be sent on a
conveyor belt through the length of the mart and stored on both left
and right of the belt.Technology which is available will ensure the
funds are used well and not given to criminal elements.Such a mart
will be cloned all over and the people will have pride in being in
such a country only.Infosys and other money grubbing companies should
know where Hi-tech is to be used.

from:  Prof.Paul.V.John
Posted on: Dec 14, 2012 at 08:44 IST

Hope FDI cleanses this evil system. Thanks to idli vendor...we would
like to see more such heroes.

from:  Manual
Posted on: Dec 14, 2012 at 08:27 IST

It is disgusting to note that. These criminals be hanged in public at the same place, where they operated.

from:  sankar
Posted on: Dec 14, 2012 at 06:09 IST

This is a double edged sword.

from:  rao thotakura
Posted on: Dec 14, 2012 at 02:41 IST

No need to worry.
FDI in retail is coming soon to save all these vendors

from:  arithar
Posted on: Dec 14, 2012 at 00:25 IST

Dear Editor: This is the time tested way of making quick money. It is not only this entrenched mafia which thrives off this, the elite do the same but under the sophisticated multinational companies (Visa, Mastercard etc) using the garb of "credit card". In other words business is but a misnomer whose end motive is to rob money "legally". Whether this is done by the chic suave urbanite or by the rough rural money lender, the end results are pretty much the same.

from:  Dwarakanath Srinivasan
Posted on: Dec 13, 2012 at 23:01 IST

This is sorry state of affairs in many cities. I have seen people grow
from a few thousand rupees to crorepaties in a few years and no taxes or
banks for them. Who would dare to rob their houses.

from:  Bhupender
Posted on: Dec 13, 2012 at 21:46 IST

Shame on those who earn like this!!!!!!!!, god must have some mercy.These Don(g)s must get punishment, & they should not live in & around that area again, police must be honest at least in this matter.Those who earn a penny a day have to pay means, its shameful act,

from:  shailendra
Posted on: Dec 13, 2012 at 20:18 IST

I believed women's self-help groups and microfinancing helped such vendors. May be government or civic authorities can educate the vendors to avoid the unorganised 'kandhu vatti' menace.

from:  Rajesh
Posted on: Dec 13, 2012 at 20:17 IST

This is hardly news,since it is followed all over India and abroad
too in poor countries.A humongous effort is needed to root this evil
as it is complicated by involvement of several layers of society.Only
a very strong organisation and a committed leader with public
sympathy can work out a plan with help of a political agency over a
period of time say couple of years.Once a strong will is shown the
evil will root itself out quickly.But beware,it needs to be
supplemented with alternative ways of providing credit too to the
poor without adequate collateral.Can Aadhar come in of help?

from:  ll kumar
Posted on: Dec 13, 2012 at 19:42 IST

A similar situation is being faced by small flower vendors outside the
famous temple in Samayapuram, Tiruchi Dt. The collection of money is
being collected by local goons in broad daylight. It would hard for me
to believe that the Police is unaware of "kandhu vatti" which is still
prevalent in this area and many more parts of Tamilnadu. The only way to
save the poor people is to get rid of these goons collecting money from
these poor people.

from:  Krishna S Bala
Posted on: Dec 13, 2012 at 18:18 IST

The mafia are the people responsible for the exorbitant rates of basic goods like flowers and fruits during all the times and especially the festival time! A measure of flower which costs INR.10-15 on a normal day will sky rocket to INR.50-60 during festivals. So if you look at it, they arent harassing the head-load worker alone! the mafia is eating out of all our pockets every damn day!

from:  naveen
Posted on: Dec 13, 2012 at 15:42 IST

This is certainly not something new. The only victims of this macabre
are the vendors who want to make an honest living. They have no choice
as they are stuck between a rock and a hard place -the police and the

from:  bharath
Posted on: Dec 13, 2012 at 11:01 IST
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