Migrant void has left city crippled

Even as Ahmedabad limps back after over a week of shutdown of grocery, vegetable shops and people rushing to buy essential goods, the overall picture that has emerged is how the wheels of the business-centric city have been crippled by the exodus of migrant workers.

Markets looked deserted, grocers didn’t have enough provisions, while vegetables remained scarce even as Amdavadis scrambled to buy goods.

The Ahmedabad Produce Market Committee (APMC) and wholesale vegetable markets opened after a gap of 10 days on Friday, with most of the markets wearing a deserted look. As migrant workers from the district left for their home state, the markets in the city and district had to work with 50 per cent strength, leaving stocks unsold.

Deserted markets, empty shop shelves and lack of foodstuff show what effect the exodus of migrant workers have had Ahmedabad



As per information, 1.33 lakh migrant workers have left Ahmedabad district, affecting the wholesale business in a major way as loading, unloading of vegetables and groceries with the grossly inadequate workers made the task not only difficult but could not be finished in the limited time available.

The markets opened after Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and the district administration lifted the lockdown of shops from Friday. Since May 7, only milk and medicines shops were allowed to remain open until May 14.

Bharat Khamar, president of Jamalpur Vegetable Merchant said that the wholesale market which was shifted to Jetalpur opened on Friday. There were 70 to 80 trucks that had reached to do wholesale business.

“Majority of workers in our market are from Rajasthan. Most of them have returned, while a few have remained. Our market also has workers from the state. Earlier, one truck full of vegetables took 15 minutes to unload as 50 workers would be at work. Now with few workers around, it takes 1hour to 1.5 hours,” said Khamar.

With few workers available, wholesalers in APMC have stopped unloading trucks. They just ask the workers to climb up and provide stock as per the demand from buyers. “Now, packs come in 20kg too, so we have to manage things as per the availability of help. There is no denial that we are struggling much without adequate number of help,” said Dipak Patel, secretary of APMC, Vasna.

Kalupur grain market which is yet to open for business as it is in Red Zone are anticipating trouble once they open. “Daily wage labourers and tempo drivers are from Rajasthan and most of them have left. Those who work on salaries have stayed back.

Grain merchants want to start operations and want to take all necessary precautions. Once we open with permission from the civic body and police, we are staring at shortage of workers,” said Kamlesh Shah, honorary secretary, Ahmedabad Grain Merchants Association. The market pays Rs10 to Rs11to shift 100kg of grains, he said.

Our home delivery boys have left, which has inconvenienced customers who have to personally come to pick the grains and pulses

Chaitanya Modi, Panachand, Vijay Crossroads

If any purchases were to be made, my shop worker used to buy them. I would leave the to him and go for lunch. Now I have to shut the shop during lunch hours

Amrish Mehta , kirana shop, Relief Rd

Chaitanya Modi who runs the popular Panachand grain shop at Vijay Crossroads said, “We had around 11helpers, who worked in cleaning the grains, run the mini tempo trucks and deliveries, on daily wages. They hailed from villages in Deesa, Palanpur and bordering villages of neighbouring states. They left Ahmedabad as soon as the lockdown came into effect. The shortage does pinch us but we are managing for now with the remaining 17 staffers, including three family members.

Our home delivery boys have left, which has inconvenienced the customers who have to personally come to pick the grains and pulses. We have to spend extra money in cleaning the grains in small factories, which was earlier sifted by the daily wagers.” Since the inception of Shri Kushal Krupa Kirana store at Panjrapol on Relief Road seven years ago, Amrish Mehta has had a loyal worker named Ramesh Prajapati from Dungarpur in Rajasthan.

He was in the first lot that left by bus to Rajasthan. “He gave the grocery to the customers, while I was the cashier. If any purchases were to be made, he used to buy them. I used to leave the shop to him and leave for lunch. Now I have to shut the shop during lunch hours which affects business and also manage both selling and counting money.”

Sanjay Mishra who runs a provision shop in Changodar had Vikas Dubey, a migrant worker from Gorakhpur in UP, who left for home a month ago. “When he was here, he ran the shop, while Mishra brought the products from the wholesale market. Now he has to go and buy himself and run the shop at the same time.” Motera resident Vijay Kumar (49) said, “I couldn’t get fruits like watermelon, banana, papaya, oranges or even mangoes. They were not seen in our area at all. When inquired, I was told they are not available in the market.”

(Inputs by Niyati Rana, Ancela Jamindar, Jignesh Vora, Megha Bhatt)

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