Following the decision made by the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) council to close the Night Food Bazaar/Court, the corporation has sent eviction notices to the vendors asking them to vacate the space within 10 days. The vendors are now a worried lot with the deadline closing in. They condemned the corporation’s move and said that the livelihoods of hundreds of families will be affected by it.
The Night Food Bazaar was opened in February 2020 by the GVMC, with around 25 vendors. However, within a month, it was closed due to COVID-19. The families dependent on the food zone had to suffer for more than a year until it was re-opened when the restrictions due to COVID-19 were eased. Yet again, it was closed during the second wave and was re-opened after another year.
However, problems cropped up when a number of unauthorised vendors started selling there with the support of a few political leaders and some government officials. In addition, complaints began pouring in over the poor sanitation in the area. The local corporator, Bipin Jain, also demanded the council remove the food court due to the poor sanitation and the traffic problems caused by the food stalls. During its last meeting, the council approved the proposal to remove the food bazaar. However, the decision did not go down well with the vendors.
“Instead of coming up with a solution, the GVMC is creating another problem here which is going to financially hit a number of families. We are authorised vendors, and we have the right to run our businesses. The GVMC has the power to remove the vendors who set up shops here illegally. Why did they not do that?” asked an authorised vendor. He said that there are about 60 authorised vendors on the Old Jail Road.
Another vendor said that earlier, they used to pay ₹100 monthly fees to the Urban Community Development (UCD) wing of the GVMC. However, many unauthorised vendors have occupied the space and started their business. They were not even paying the fee to the corporation. So, we also stopped paying the fee, he said.
The vendors say that they have started the business by borrowing loans from financiers and banks and have been paying monthly instalments to their financiers.
A senior GVMC official from the UCD wing said that they have only followed the council instructions. He also said that the corporation is starting ‘Eat Streets’ on the lines of food zones with good sanitation and strict rules for the vendors at two points—near Beach Road and at Sagar Nagar Beach—where authorised vendors were likely to be allocated spaces following directions from the council.