Street vendors at TNagar
Ever been to TNAGAR? Been on the Usman road with shopping plans? Ever been forced to drive through Usman road? If you answered YES to any of these questions, then you would be as mad as I get when I talk about the nice place really battered and destroyed over the years. Thanks to the pipe laying activity by the corporation, walking through usman road has just got more difficult over past few months. Add to this scene, countless illegal street vendors trying to sell stuff right in the middle of the road and you have an atmosphere of chaos, celebration, arrogance, irritation and what not. TNagar is no longer one-shop-stop it used to be. Today, there are multiple shops (Saravana (Yeah! All those Saravana flavors together), Pothys, Rethna Stores, RMKV, SKC etc selling the same stuff. And on top of it there are these vendors selling interesting stuff at earthly prices on the road side.
I have often found myself wondering how the authorities are letting these hawkers sell their stuff on the roads? These vendors don’t pay tax, rent or anything to the government. Why then, is the government tolerant to them?
Couple of weeks ago, when I was at TNagar, a weird incident answered this question of mine. I was standing on the footpath, waiting for my mom to finish of her shopping and I saw a lad selling colorful laundry baskets. As I was watching, a well-dressed man walked to this lad and extended his hand. The lad, promptly placed a Rs. 5.00 note in his hand and the man walked away without any words exchanged between the two. I didn’t think much about this till another guy walked up and this mute drama repeated. By this lad turned around, saw me watching this whole episode and smiled.
I asked him – “Do you have to pay rent to be selling stuff here?”, He answered, “No. But, we have pay money to Police officers to sell stuff here. We pay Rs. 5.00 to 10 police men every day”. I asked him, “Really? Do you get receipts for this? Is this a fee levied by the government?” He smiled and answered, “No”. I try to push further, “Do you break even at the end of the day? After paying Rs. 50.00 to police men everyday? Is the business really worth it?”. He replied, “Oh Yeah! Business is great! We get back that Rs. 50.00 within minutes. If they allow us to do business here, we make more money than selling elsewhere.” With that, he went on with his business with the next customer.
Image Source: Wikimedia
I was left standing there..thinking. Ok. So, that guy dressed in civil dress was actually a Police Officer? And, this lad ‘bribes’ the police every day. The last I heard, paying bribe was as big a crime as taking bribe. But then, thats just idealistic crap that I can churn out sitting in luxury of my a/c office. It wouldn’t make any sense to that lad whose next meal is probably a question mark. Anyway, Lets look at this from the other end and do a little bit of math. A police officer gets Rs.5.00 from one vendor everyday. I guess there would easily be at least 200 vendors on usman road on any given day. So, that makes it Rs. 1000.00 per day. Now, If there is any truth in what the lad said, a police officer gets Rs. 30,000.00 a month from TNagar without doing any work. In fact he earns that much FOR not doing anything. Now, thats a pretty good pay for doing nothing. Of course, each police man is probably sharing that 30k with superiors and others. But, at least, now we have some reason (I really do not want to call this a reason as we don’t have any legal evidence that this practice is happening. It’s hear-say.) why no action is taken against these illegal business establishments. Apart from the amount of money the government loses in Taxes, there are more problems these vendors create – noise pollution, sound pollution and chaos. It makes shopping experience in TNagar so bad that whenever my family talks about going to TNagar for shopping I check whether I can get the same stuff elsewhere in the city.
This whole story may not be true. Maybe that lad just bluffed. I really do not wish to spread rumors here. So, I would like to emphasis that there has been no background check of any kind to make an accusation as serious as this. No investigations, No Sting operations. But, if there is any truth in the lad’s story, it would be food for thought for the Anti-Corruption bureau of Chennai (I hope there is something like that in Chennai).