Street vendors in Kozhikode stare at an uncertain future

The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent national lockdown happened just within a couple of weeks after several street vendors received their identity cards for lawful operation on the Kozhikode beach. For them, it was just the beginning of a looming crisis, as safety regulations literally shut the doors behind their sole means of subsistence.

โ€œWe are totally clueless about our future amid these uncertain times. For those with permanent shops, things are going smooth, but people like us have no hope of resuming pushcart business,โ€ said Basheer, who used to sell eatables on the beach. Though some have relocated business to other places, the majority are struggling with the unexpected setback after people stopped visiting the beach, he added.

Only those who took up pushcart trade as a part-time venture are somehow managing the situation with the meagre income they derive from their main vocation. The group includes daily wage workers, fishermen, cleaning labourers, and farmers. For the other segment, the reopening of tourist destinations like beaches and parks will be crucial.

A headload worker in the beach area said there were several women who had lost their sources of income with the closure of the Kozhikode beach. โ€œMost of them used to prepare food at home for sale on the beach. There were also women who earned a living by selling ice candies, marinated fruits and drinks,โ€ he pointed out.

According to official figures available with the Kozhikode Corporation, there are 2,036 street vendors in the city with special identity cards. The pandemic made its entry at a time when the civic body was considering implementing a number of creative welfare projects such as special vending zones and a food street.

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