BENGALURU News: Nataraj, a street vendor in Jayanagar 9th Block who had been selling fruits and vegetables for several decades, died last week due to Covid. His family members are also infected and struggling to make ends meet.
Several street vendors succumbed to Covid but there’s no database available. Thousands across the state face uncertainty due to rising cases and lockdown.
With the state government extending the lockdown without offering any financial assistance, many are left in the lurch. With work from home, not an option, they have to deal with several customers daily for their livelihood.
“We’re allowed to sell vegetables only between 6 am and 10 am. Very few people buy from us as most prefer to shop online. Wastage due to rotten vegetables is high since we can sell only for a few hours. We don’t have any other alternative,” said Rajamma, who sells vegetables at Nagavarapalya in East Bengaluru.
“Street vendors serve customers every day and are part of the city’s ethos. Now, they’re under threat. The soldier on as they need an income for survival. They need immediate vaccination, protection, testing, and treatment,” said Vinay Sreenivasa, an activist.
“Nataraj died as he was admitted late to the hospital. He was not aware of Covid symptoms and didn’t know how to use an oximeter. Government agencies should test vendors, especially in crowded markets, for early detection. We can save many lives” he added.
Vendors sell fruits and vegetables by the roadside and on open grounds and many customers prefer them over supermarkets which are centrally air-conditioned.
However, many stay in slums and small houses and find it difficult to be quarantined if a family member is infected. “Many family members struggle due to Covid but they don’t even have insurance for treatment,” said PP Appanna, general secretary, Federation of Street Vendors Union.
He said many vendors are still unaware of the risks. “The government should provide free vaccination to street vendors on priority. It should also conduct tests among all street vendors. Food kits and ration should be distributed to everyone for free. It should announce a compensation package for them for the loss of livelihood due to lockdown. All of them should be given insurance cover,” he added.