One of eastern India’s biggest fruit markets, the ‘Mechua Bazar Phal Mandi’ at Burrabazar in Central Kolkata, wore a different look on Tuesday. The daily commotion and buzz of traders’ conversations were missing, as the whole market has crashed following the Centre’s decision to withdraw notes of large denominations. Hundreds of owners of closed shops seethed in anger, sitting with black badges on their clothes to protest against the decision.
“We have called a day-long strike as a token of protest against the government’s order because we deal with business of perishable items. Cash crunch might be a matter of a few days for others, but we are incurring huge losses as fruits in stock are getting rotten and we can’t sell them in absence of buyers,” Mohammed Mumtaz, vice-president of The Calcutta Fruit Merchants’ Association (TCFMA) told The Indian Express.
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Over thousand fruit merchants are associated with the wholesale market. They consider the pronouncement as most arbitrary with only UP elections in mind. The cash-driven market has come to halt. Tempers began to fray out of the inconvenience, ever since the government passed the order.
“Modi is behaving like a Hitler, who is far from ground reality,” said an irate Mumtaz. The fruit market was set up in 1932.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the announcement banning Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on November 8, the fruit sellers here grew worried realising that their business would be hit the most as the transactions here are done mostly in Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. “In the past six days, we have suffered 70 per cent losses.
“Till November 11, we accepted Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, but now we can’t. This has affected about 3 lakh people, who are dependent on this market,” said another member of the association. However, some of the protesting fruit sellers said the PM’s intentions were good, but he need to plan it well.
“The Centre should have taken proper measures like pumping more hundred-rupee notes into the market to save liquid cash-driven markets like this from a financial crisis,” said a fruit merchant, who didn’t wish to be identified.
“We want government to know that about three lakh people are dependent on this market for their bread and butter.
“It should increase flow of smaller denomination notes as early as possible so that the hawkers, labourers and fruit sellers are not affected. We want the government to at least make some special arrangement for the traders of perishable goods,” said Mumtaz.
“The PM should come and face the reality. He should also think about forty percent of those Indians who don’t have bank accounts. He is just trying to misguide the people with a dream that’s far from reality”, said one of the fruit merchants.
The merchants have claimed that this one-day strike has caused a loss of five crores to the market.
“The market does a business of four to five crores on an average in a day. I feel the PM may have good intentions, but the execution is bad.
The ‘Fal Mandi’ exports 20 per cent of perishable goods to Bangladesh and other nearby countries.
“The export business hasn’t been affected because it is not dealt with cash,” said Mohammed Iftkar Alam, General Secretary of Calcutta Fruit Merchant Association.
The association members took out a rally from Mechua, Burrabazar, covering Satyanarayan Park, Brabourne Market, Poddar Court.
Over 2,000 people participated and protested against the cash crisis and demanded for an early flow of low denomination notes.