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Team Anna eats up all competiton

Ideals don't satisfy hunger, nor do they pay bills. And, the numbers flocking to Jantar Mantar for a glimpse of the anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare don't necessarily translate into business for food stalls or those selling Anna caps, badges or national flags near the fast venue.

'Sales have dropped by 50 per cent since Anna's fast started here,' said Mani, who has a dosa stall in the area. He agreed that the crowd at the fast venue was good over the weekend but insisted that it did not translate into sales for him. Sunny, who runs a juice stall next to the dosa shop, echoed Mani's statements.

But, there is a reason why Hazare's supporters do not mean business to these stall owners. Rajkumar, who has been running a food stall in the area for more than 20 years, says, 'Our clientele mostly consists of the office crowd. Ever since the fast started the roads are closed here. There is no longer any parking space. Our regular customers are unable to come.'
 
The drop in the number of regular customers has not been compensated for by Hazare's followers. The main reason for this, feel the stall owners there, is that Team Anna has been distributing free food and water at the venue for all visitors. 'Everyone is flocking to
Anna ki Rasoi
near the entrance of the fast venue. They are distributing free food there. Sometimes someone comes and asks the price of food at our stalls and then go away, complaining that it is too expensive,' said Rajkumar.

The long queue for the free food was proof of his statement. Most of the items at the stalls in the area, whether it is dosa, rajma chawal or kachori are priced between Rs 10 and Rs 40.

Arjun, who sells nimbu pani in the area, is also worried. 'Soon I won't have money even to eat,' he grumbles, adding, 'Usually even after paying commission to the owner, I have Rs 100 to Rs 150 left for myself. But ever since the fast started, my earning have nosedived,' he said.

If the permanent stalls have suffered a drop in business, mobile hawkers who had been drawn to the fast venue in the hope of better sales are disappointed too. Ram Dhani, who sells coconut near the New Delhi station, where he also lives, came to the fast venue hoping for better sale. 'I usually sell coconuts worth Rs 50 to Rs 100 daily. I don't see a very marked increase in sales here,' he said.

The craze for Anna caps also seem to be less than before, or perhaps the number of hawkers have gone up, resulting in lower individual income. Sunita has come from Ghaziabad to sell Anna memorabilia at the fast venue. The caps are priced at Rs 10, as are the tri-colour wristbands. The flags she has are priced at Rs 50. But, as she shook her head to indicate the lack of customers, a young boy standing near her informs, 'The volunteers were giving away free caps sometime back.'
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