Move to shift Sunday market in Puducherry triggers debate

A major attraction: The government plans to shift the market overcoming the objections of hawkers.   | Photo Credit: T.Singaravelou

For decades, the Mahatma Gandhi Road housed the Sunday market, a popular shopping destination for residents as well as for people from the neighbourhood and tourists.

The government plans to shift the market overcoming the objections of hawkers.

The hint that the market would be shifted to a less congested place nearby came from Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy recently in the Legislative Assembly while replying to a calling attention motion moved by an Opposition member.

“Sunday market is an age-old tradition of Puducherry. People say it is more than 50 years old. The town used to be deserted on Sundays with shops and business establishments remaining closed. The concept of setting up temporary markets on M.G. Road to serve the tourist crowd evolved then,” said Julian Francis, a teaching faculty in a private college and a resident of St. Rosary Street at Muthialpet.

What started off as a small venture at the Jawaharlal Nehru Street junction on Mahatma Gandhi Road decades ago as an alternative market to meet domestic consumption demands, has, over the years, grown into a booming business with over 2,000 vendors occupying the stretch from Ajantha Signal to Bussy Street crossing on M.G. Road.

The market attracts customers of all kinds as vendors offer a wide variety of products, including second hand goods, at low prices which cuts into the business of permanent shop owners. The Chief Minister had cited in his reply the dip in the revenue of “tax-paying firms”.

However, the vendors are strongly opposing the move to shift the venue of Sunday market. The vendors, under the banner of the All India Trade Union Congress, recently took out a march to register their protest.

“We have been here for years. Customers come to us because we fill their aspirations. All the products sold in the market are affordable,” said Shankar, a vendor selling textile products. The vendors pay a fee of ₹50 each to the municipality on all Sundays, he said.

Customers may not travel to a faraway place to buy products and added that the government should drop its plan as it would impact the livelihood of thousands of families.

“It is a huge revenue loss after the Sunday market became a separate shopping entity in the town. On the day when vendors occupy the stretch, we can’t even open the outlet. Even if we open, hardly any customer visits the shop as the front side is packed with people. It’s a strong lobby,” said a shop owner on M.G. Road.

A representative of traders’ association said there should be a level-playing field.

“A majority of them are from outside the territory. We pay tax, power bill, water charge, garbage tax and salary to employees. The vendors hardly pay any fee to the municipality,” he said.

Strongly contending the argument of the trade body, local unit secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) R. Rajangam said the traders body was trying to generate a wrong notion.

A majority of the traders of the Sunday market were from marginalised sections in Union Territory itself. “Someone is trying to give a wrong picture about the vendors to the government. Of course, there are people from outside. But a majority of them are from the town and nearby villages,” he said.

On Sundays, some regular shops are opened just to tap the customers who visit M.G. Road, he added.

‘For the poor’

Local legislator and parliamentary secretary to Chief Minister K. Lakshminarayanan, said the government should not look at every venture through the prism of tax.

The market benefits a larger section of society. “People benefit because of the affordable price. Let people who want to go to malls and other business establishments do so. The Sunday market is the place for poor and to an extent for the middle class,” he said.

On the reported plan to shift the market to the Anglo-French Textiles ground, he said the construction of a mall near the ground had increased the vehicular traffic along the busy stretch. The shifting of the market would add to the traffic chaos, he said.

Notwithstanding the argument of vendors, trade bodies, and political class, local residents like Mr. Francis feel shifting the market would not be an ideal move. “Sunday market is like Monday market in Karol Bagh. It is sort of a weekly festival. Its a win-win situation for shop owners and hawkers,” said Shri Vidhya, entrepreneur and a resident of Illayipillaichavady.

T. Poorani, educationist and a resident of Chetty Street, said vendors through their hardship, had made the street a favoured tourist destination. “I feel it has to be retained in the heart of the city as it has become part of our traditional heritage. It has been a great tourist attraction for several years,” she said.

A senior official told The Hindu that a concrete decision had not been taken on shifting the market but even if it was shifted it would be done without hurting the business interest of vendors. The Chief Minister had assured a delegation of vendors that they would be consulted before taking a decision.

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Printable version | Apr 15, 2021 7:56:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/move-to-shift-sunday-market-in-puducherry-triggers-debate/article29403540.ece

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