Thanks to poll code, protesters at the ‘Dharna Chowk’ are missing the action
HYDERABAD: ‘Dharna Chowk’ at Indira Park. The very mention of this address would give hardcore activist-workers that rush of adrenaline, send reporters racing, politicians rushing and force the police to be on their toes.
Flag-waving supporters pitching their demands, political anthems replayed tirelessly for all those concerned, rousing speeches that promise the sky, microphone and pen-wielding reporters vying for that exclusive byte or quote, while the police stand guard nearby, eyes searching for that first sign of aggression even as their superiors bark orders over the walkie-talkie sets – are all a common sight here.
But over the last few weeks, denizens of the surrounding areas seem to be missing the action. Or is it a sigh of relief? With the election code in force and the government’s hands tied to seek any assurances, and opposition political parties too busy calculating post-poll scenarios, they don’t have a reassuring shoulder to lean on either.
If there is someone out there who is hoping to see their early return, it is the hawkers on the stretch who eke out their living catering to the protesting parties. The clutch of thirst quencher vendors that have set up temporary stalls on the road is mainly dependent on the income they earn from selling tender coconut water, fresh lime soda and sweet sugarcane juice.
“While I am selling around 100 coconuts now, I usually sell 150 to 200 coconuts when there are dharnas,” says Rangula Venkatayya, who has been selling coconuts for nearly 15 years.
A. Padma, a middle-aged woman who has been selling lemon soda for nearly 10 years now agrees.
“When there are dharnas, my take-home is between Rs.200 and Rs.300 everyday. But these days, the business has come down,” she says.
There are nearly eight coconut and lemon soda stalls and three sugarcane stalls on the stretch to quench the parched throats of sloganeering protesters.
“Even the policemen on duty come here to grab a drink,” Ms. Padma says.
So dependent are these vendors on the protesters that sometimes when the protests are ‘indefinite’, ‘relay’ or extend late into night, some stay put. “There were some occasions when we slept here all night till the protests ended,” nonchalantly remarks 80-year-old Mr. Venkatayya.