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Widespread distress as note ban hits street vendors

Widespread distress as note ban hits street vendors
Mahesh Yadav sits on a pavement selling his 3D puzzle houses and electronic gadget accessories. He sets up a toy track and makes two miniature versions of a rabbit and tortoise race in a never-ending loop as he idles away his time in an endless wait for customers. 

Yadav laments that his life in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, had become an endless struggle and thus, with hopes of a better future, he came to the Capital. But ever since demonetisation, his business has been hard hit and had to send his two children back to his native place.

“I have two children, a boy and a girl. I have been selling toys and other items on this footpath for years and now I am not able to make ends meet. I had no other choice but to shift my children back to Moradabad,” he said. 

When one enters Connaught Place, they are not only greeted by the breathtaking architecture, a legacy of the British, but a whole community of street vendors who sell toys, electronic gadgets, jewellery and various other decorative items adorn the white columns of Connaught Place.

With the Central government pushing for the digital mode of payments, hundreds of such small-scale vendors have been badly affected. 

“I do not have a smartphone, the one that I own is an old Nokia phone. I have to spend Rs 8-10,000 on a smartphone, and in these times I can’t afford it,” said Ravindra Kumar, who has set up a small shop in the area and has been doing business there since 2001.

Many of the vendors can’t even comprehend the concept of a mobile application as they have never owned a touch screen mobile phone. The customers who flock to their stands decked with beautiful jewellery return empty handed. 

“The customers ask us for PayTm transactions and then when we tell them we don’t have that facility they don’t buy from us. The people who own them have high currency notes and we can’t give them change. It has been more than 50 days now and my business is yet to pick up,” said  Radha Ram, a vendor. 

For Shyam, a vendor from Gujarat, the peak season for sales has come and gone, but somehow, he appreciates the note ban drive. “I have been selling bags in this spot for the past 45 years. The move by Modi is good. But yes, business is slow and we have been managing to survive somehow,” said Shyam.

However, for many the peak season meant everything as they had stocked up on their goods anticipating a high footfall. “I had bought gadgets worth Rs 4-5,000. I usually buy them from Nehru Place. I have not been able to sell them off. I am waiting for business to pick up,” said Rishabh Jain.

While Mahesh Yadav had to send his children back home, Ravindra is fighting a lone battle to keep his children with him. 

“I have three children and all of them are in private schools. I may have to buy a smartphone in future to boost my business. I have to work hard as I want my children to stay here in Delhi with me,” he said. 
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