The patrons of this Saturday market range from techies from Electronics City to those living in the suburbs

On an early Saturday morning, the otherwise busy and mostly congested route to Bommanahalli is more or less asleep, marking the much-awaited weekend break in the software hub, Electronics City, which is just kilometres away. However, a small suburb, on the other side of Electronics City, comes alive every Saturday.

At the break of dawn, Chandapura, not very far from Bommanahalli, bustles with activity, while it prepares to host the ‘Shanivara Santhe' (Saturday market).

Makeshift market

On this day, buyers and sellers from Bangalore and the nearby towns flock to Chandapura as early as 4 a.m. to participate in the one-day market. Why Saturday? Because it is Jigani's turn on a Sunday, Bannerghatta's on Tuesday, Anekal's on Friday and as tradition would have it, Chandapura's turn is on Saturday.

Rajamma is one among the many buyers and sellers who assemble early in the day, sometimes even on the previous night, to set up their stalls in the makeshift market area that starts at the Chandapura Circle stretching across the vast expanse of land on the left side of the highway. At the crack of dawn, she buys coconuts from sellers, generally from Tamil Nadu, and carries them to her stall.

Sellers like her buy vegetables and other produce either from farmers who come early in the morning to the market only to sell their produce and leave, or from the wholesale markets at Yeshwanthpur and Bommanahalli. “We hire a truck on Monday and Tuesday to buy onions from the wholesale markets at Yeshwanthpur and then travel from one santhe to the next selling them,” said Gopal Reddy, from Anekal.

Rajamma and Gopal Reddy have to pay a ‘gate fare' to occupy a stall in the santhe. “Each year, the Chandapura Panchayat conducts an auction where tenders are floated to manage the market area. The price at which the tender is sold determines the gate fare for each seller. For example, if the tender is sold at Rs. 10 lakh, then that amount is divided over 12 months to arrive at the gate fare for each seller,” explained Gopal.

The gate fare also largely depends on the quantity sold by each seller. “We (onion sellers) have to pay Rs. 950 as gate fare because we sell large quantities of onions. But other vegetable sellers have to pay around Rs. 300 to Rs. 350 and coconut sellers Rs. 200 to Rs. 250. It also depends on the size of the stall,” he added.

Loopholes

While there is an extensive system in place with each market agent playing a definitive role, it is not devoid of loopholes.

“The ones who collect gate fares collect much more than the fixed fare and most of it goes into their pockets. If the gate fare is Rs. 65, sometimes they collect up to Rs. 200. The panchayat is not strong enough to oppose this practice. We have tried to talk about this issue with them but the sellers have had no respite from such exploitation,” said Anand Kumar, secretary, Chandapura Santhe Vyaparigala Sangha.

This weekly market, however, works well for other reasons. According to Anand , transactions of up to Rs. 1 crore are carried out at the santhe and he qualifies this statement by saying “it is good business”. With the highway by the side, the location is convenient for both buyers and sellers.

For the techies that live around Electronics City, the market rids them of the need to take time out for grocery shopping during the week. “I come here every Saturday and buy a week's supply of vegetables. For those who work in factories, this weekend market works well,” said Muniyappa, a newspaper agent.

Roshan, who has a truck of his own, transports vegetables from other markets to this one and earns about Rs. 600 per commute.

“Today, I've brought tomatoes from the market in Hosur. My job is to transport vegetables and other groceries from one market to another. This system works for me,” he said.

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