The lakhs of participants of the Maratha Morcha who poured into Azad Maidan throughout the day may have been inconvenient for vehicles and pedestrians, but were a boon to vendors and shopkeepers who saw brisk business through Wednesday. While majority of the stalls near Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus remained shut for most of the day, several vendors set up stands on Hazarimal Somani Marg, MG Road and in Azad Maidan.
While shops along Fashion Street and restaurants such as McDonald’s remained shut, popular eatery Aram was among the few that were open for business. In preparation for the rally, owners said that they had ordered extra supplies for the day and had to open earlier than usual. “We had ordered more than double the quantity of food than our usual supply but still ran out of vadas and misal during the day. We were packed through most of the day and have served more than 2,000 people Wednesday,” said Kaustubh Tambe, owner of Aram.
Due to commotion caused by some protestors, the delivery counter of the eatery had to be shut for two hours. Incidentally, Wednesday was also Aram’s 78th anniversary.
Cannon Pav Bhaji and others had to stay shut due to the large crowds. Referring to the crowd as ‘overwhelming’, Gopal Sharma (63) who owns Sharma Snacks, said they had close business as they would have been unable to handle such a large number of people. “We wouldn’t have been able to handle so many people. We opened late in the evening and sold just water and cold drinks to people,” he said. Twelve cartons of water bottles were sold out in a matter of minutes, Sharma added.
Apart from the regular stall owners, there were people who travelled to the city to sell their wares only for the protest. Ram Manohar (35) accompanied by four of his friends, travelled from Pandharpur to sell groundnuts. “We have been travelling to all the morchas. On a regular day, we make around Rs 400- Rs500. On days of the protest, we make up to Rs 2,500,” he said. Swamini Padwala, cashier at Cannon Pav Bhaji, said such rush is witnessed only on festival days or on New Year’s Day.
Restaurants such as Bhartiya Mishthan, Pancham Puriwala, Shivala and Sai Pooja as well as a sugarcane juice and dosa stall in the area were unusually crowded. With thousands of plastic bottles and cups discarded on the road, groups of ragpickers also worked quickly, hauling away sacks of dry waste. Among them was 48-year-old Rajan Devraj Nadar, who hoped to make around Rs 500 from the waste he gathered. “The morcha has brought good news for us since there are a lot of empty cardboard cartons and plastic bottles to collect. While on a usual day, I am able to sell waste worth Rs 150, today I’ll be able to make much more,” he said.