Pandemic Blues: Street vendors in Patna reeling under debt
Despite India recently entering the fifth unlock phase, many people in the unorganised sectors in Bihar are under huge debt for the last 4-5 months.
Om Prakash Gupta, who sells flower pots on the Veerchand Patel Road in Patna, told IANS that he is reeling under a debt of Rs 40,000 and is unable to repay the amount with interest.
His stall is located in front of the office of the JD-U, the ruling party in Bihar.
"I am giving excuses to the money lender in a bid to buy more time. The situation is such that the interest amount keeps adding to my principle debt, as I am unable to pay the instalments. The total amount has now gone up to Rs 52,000," Gupta said.
"Despite the lifting of lockdown restrictions in the city, people are not coming to buy flower pots, clay utensils and hand-made baskets, which are normally in huge demand during the marriage season.
"The market is down since June. We expected some uptick in sales during the unlock period. However, that has not happened as the market continues to remain sluggish," Gupta said.
Comparing the present situation to the period before the pandemic, Gupta said: "We managed to sale products worth Rs 4,000 per day then. But now we barely manage to sale goods worth Rs 500 to Rs 600. While people are fearful of the pandemic, I believe that their buying capacity has also decreased, especially among the middle class and lower middle class groups."
He also said that he is yet to receive any government aid.
"When I learnt about the Rs 10,000 loan proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the street vendors, I applied for it. But I have not received a single penny so far," Gupta said, as he showed the acknowledgement slip for the loan application.
Rajnish Sharma, a nursery owner on Bailey Road, said: "We have slashed the prices by up to 30 per cent for every sapling, but still the buyers' turn out is very low. Besides, buyers also bargain with us, leaving us with very little profit margin. Since saplings need extra care and given that I have sent an employee on leave in a bid cut down on expenses, my wife is helping me out in the nursery."
"I have taken a loan of Rs 45,000 to buy saplings. I have also deposited Rs 25,000 as school fees for my two daughters from the borrowed amount. Now I am unable to repay the instalments," he added.
Sharma's neighbour Ali Raza, a flower seller, said: "The majority of my buyers are party goers. Since very few parties are organised now in view of the pandemic, the sales are low. We are expecting sales to increase in the upcoming festival season, from Durga Puja to Chath." - IANS