Nagpur: Its been over 3 days now since a terrible fire suddenly erupted in a section of the Cotton Market – also known as Phule market -at 4 p.m. and vegetable and fruit merchants saw their ‘gallas’ gutted completely in front of their eyes.
No one could do anything to contain it, because believe it or not, this huge market, that earns crores for NMC, has no water supply!
Yes, you read it right – in the huge market complex spread over at least 10 acres of land, where farmers come from not just all over Vidarbha or Maharashtra, but all over the country to unload their vegetables, does not even merit a tap!!
(There is just that one Sulabh Sauchalaya complex where people have their bath and use the loos too.)
The fire was no doubt toxic, since there is a lot of plastic lying around – plastic bags ( called bardanas) plastic crates ( that carry fruits and perishable veggies like tomatoes) and other such stuff.
Forget asking them about how they are coping, or offering compensation, so many days after the incidence happened, only the press has been visiting.
Not one, Corporator, not one MLA, not the Mayor, nor any Minister has come to even see the damage for themselves. Surprisingly nor has any NMC official come to do a survey, or just talk with the merchants and traders – in all, 17,000 local people are employed in this market.
When we went there yesterday afternoon, we saw debris of the fire just lying around, swept in a heap by the sweepers so people can walk around.
To this debris was added trash like rotten vegetables. And a group of bovines, cows and bulls were happily munching on it.
(Pray, where are the ‘Gorakshaks’ here? Aren’t they bothered that their ‘Gau mata’ is feeding on this trash that is toxic?!)
When this is the case of the aftermath of the fire, can traders who have lost lakhs – yes, some even saw their bag full of currency notes, that they were supposed to pay the farmers – burnt in front of their eyes, their furniture, even walls gone, so much ‘inventory’ burned expect any compensation?
When the NMC that is not even bothering to clear the trash, have any condolence or sympathy to offer these people who supply us with our daily onions, potatoes, fruits and vegetables?
“Kanda, mula, bhaji, akhi Vithumai majhi” ( onions, radish and vegetables – this is my Mother Goddess) sang one saint who is very revered in Maharashtra.
But our leaders and our administrators have scant respect for the produce of the land and people who grow it and market it.
The height of cruelty is that in this hot and sweltering weather, even their power connections have not been restored. They are being asked to furnish old bills and proof that they have been paid.
“When the fire took away everything, how do we furnish these papers? Don’t they have their records, their ledgers, their computers?” asks one trader.
Those who can, have taken connections from outside so at least one fan, one cooler can be run. (Sorry, no fans, they have all been gutted badly).
But the market goes on… whether it is day or night, Cotton market is a beehive of activity.
There is no day or night here – because farmers begin arriving with their precious goods any time after 12 midnight. (When vegetables are transported at night, they do not get damaged due to the bright and brutal sun). ‘Purchases’ from farmers goes on till 4 or 5 a.m. and then the local small traders come to purchase vegetables/ fruits they sell in retail all over the city. Then 8 a.m. onwards, citizens come – those who prefer getting their weekly supplies directly from ‘Cotton market’. This goes on till the evening – so where is the time to sleep or shut the market?
Don’t forget Nagpur’s Cotton market is one of the biggest in the country – but it still has no importance in the eyes of local leaders and ‘babus’.
Don’t they eat, we wonder? Power keeps them so satiated, that they do not need food! (Not so I think; at a press meet yesterday, where we ‘commoners’ were fed stale sandwiches and oily bondas, we saw all the ‘leaders’ cutting across parties, consume plateful of freshly cut fruits and then imbibe watermelon juice! Didn’t the sight of the fruits remind them of the big market that sells them?)
Or are they all too busy, with an upcoming ‘birthday celebrations’ where we hear ‘crores of Rupees’ are going to be given as ‘gift’ and then handed over to charity!
Well, can this charity begin at home? Please give some reprieve to those who give us our daily ‘bhaji’?
… Sunita Mudaliar ( Associate Edtior )