Farmgate hardly requires an introduction. Every day, vehicles of various shapes and sizes stop haphazardly to pick up or drop off passengers in the area, while people remain busy walking in all directions or rushing through or shoving each other to go about their destinations.
Amid the commotion, many also find time to buy something from vendors selling anything and everything. From glittering trinkets to handbags, watches, clothes, perfumes, fruits, food and even livestock -- if you crave it, you will find it in Farmgate.
Every day, hundreds of vendors set up their stalls to sell products. The area buzzes with activity way beyond the “traditional” nine to five working hours, and the madness escalates on the weekends.
This sprawling market, set up occupying the footpath beside Indira Road, has been thriving for years.
Made of bamboo, wood and plastic sheet, most makeshift shops cover almost the entire width of the footpath along Indira Road -- from near Tejgaon College to TNT field.
In some places, vendors have left a narrow gap in the middle of the sidewalk for customers to shop around.
“I’ve been commuting through the road for years. The situation has remained the same. Every day, women, children and the elderly are risking their lives and walking on the street amid traffic,” Ratna Begum, a job holder, told The Daily Star recently.
Many others, seen walking on the road, echoed her.
Hiding identity, this correspondent spoke to several vendors in the area.
They said they have been doing business for years. They claimed that they pay a certain amount -- Tk 100 to Tk 300 depending on size of their shop -- to run their operation without facing any hassle from law enforcers.
Abdur Rahim, 55, has been selling peanuts in the area for almost 12 years. He said he pays Tk 100 per day to a “lineman”.
Food vendor Jabbar Ali, 45, said, “I have been doing business for over 14 years. My son now helps me run it. I pay Tk 300 every day to a lineman. We pay the money and police do not harass us.”
T-shirt seller Sumon, 20, also said he pays Tk 200 to stay on the footpath.
There are at least 200 vendors in the area, which means on an average if Tk 200 each is collected from them per day, the amount comes up to Tk 12 lakh per month.
Wishing anonymity, a senior official of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) said they had tried to evict illegal shops many times, but to no avail. “They continue to encroach upon footpath and streets, despite our drives in cooperation with law enforcers,” he said.
The official said some people must have encouraged vendors to occupy the sidewalk time and again. “Maybe they are paying for that… you need to inquire about it,” he told this correspondent.
Contacted, Jane Alam Munshi, officer-in-charge of Sher-e-Bangla Nagar Police Station, said, “I don’t know who they [vendors] pay money to. We are not involved in any such activity.”
“I tried my best to keep the footpath free. It’s not possible for us to oust them alone. There are political leaders; city corporation, Tejgaon College and market authorities, if I say anything about the issue they might take it otherwise,” he said.
When asked how law enforcers were able to keep hawkers off the footpath during the Commonwealth Parliament Conference in 2017, the OC said, “I joined in January this year. My seniors can tell you about this.”
Indira Road falls under ward-27 of DNCC.
Contacted, Councillor Faridur Rahman Khan claimed that number of hawkers in the area used to be more than 2,000. “I was able to reduce it to 260 gradually,” he said.
He said the caretaker government gave cards to 300 hawkers, permitting them to sit on the footpath. Besides, most vendors live in the area and have been doing business for years. Some of their children study at nearby schools and colleges, he said.
“We cannot oust them all of a sudden, without ensuring their rehabilitation,” he said. “But we will try to reduce the number gradually,” he assured.
When asked about the money taken from the hawkers, he said some vendors rent out spaces to others and charge them for that. “The ones who pay the money may term it extortion. This is all I know…,” he added.
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