As temperatures dipped in the national capital, half a dozen thelas (makeshift stalls) selling winter wear have suddenly sprung up on the edges of the Singhu border protest site to help farmers keep warm while they continue their fight against the Centre’s new farm laws.
Some of the regular and other visiting shopkeepers in the area said they were here to support the farmers in their fight and at the same time make a living for themselves in the process.
“Hum yahaaan kisano ko sahyog karne aaye hain, aur iss tarah thoda humaara bhi sahyog hoga (We are here to support the farmers in their cause, and with this shop we can also earn something),” said Mohammad Ashraf Alam, who said his grandfather was also a “kisan” (farmer).
Ashraf set up a stall on Monday morning at the protest site where thousands of farmers, most of them from Punjab and Haryana, have stayed put for over two weeks, demanding repeal of new three agriculture laws.
With a variety of winter jackets, for both men and women lying in heaps, Ashraf said the garments, all priced at Rs 400, have been selling like hot cakes since morning.
He added that business has been better than what it usually is at this time of the year at his eight-year-old regular spot in Mangal Bazaar in Jahangirpuri.
Ashraf has brought in enough stock and hopes to sell all of it in “2-4 days”.
Like Ashraf, Sagir Ahmad too has set up his stall at the protest site instead of his regular haunt at a market in Jahangirpuri, hoping to earn a little more than usual, thanks to the thousands of farmers gathered here.
“We usually put up our stalls at Jahangirpuri but this year, we decided to come here as there is a huge crowd of farmers. So, we thought this would the right place to set up shop.
“Also, they have been living out in the open and with temperatures dipping further, they will be in need of winter wear. The cost is just Rs 350. This way, we will will make an extra earning,” he said, adding that since putting up the stall, he has not been disappointed.
“We are doing good business. We started our stall only yesterday but there is a high demand for jackets and coats. Sometimes we have so many customers that it becomes difficult to manage them all at once,” he added.
Mohammad Sahib, who lives in a nearby village, also put up his stall on Sunday.
From lowers and jackets to coats in all colours and sizes, his multiple “thelas” have all kinds of winter wear that one might want, and all for just Rs 250.
Sahib, who has been selling winter wear in the area for the last three years, said “We started our stall just yesterday and we are getting a good response.
“With the ongoing agitation, we do have customers flooding in to check out winter wear. So far, it is going good. We are selling export materials and have a good range of varieties available in all sizes.”
For Sarfraz Alam, who has been selling winter wear in the area for the last seven years, business has decreased because of the protest but he is not complaining.
“Because of the protest my usual customers, the locals in the area are not coming this year. This year, there are only farmer customers, which is why business is slow. But, I understand why this protest is important.
“I am also a farmer. I have five acres of land in Saharsa in Bihar, and if these farmers can sit here for days for my rights, I can handle some loss in business for them,” Alam who has been selling jackets at the site every day said.
In summers too he is here selling t-shirts and lowers.
Farmers too said they were glad that these shops came up as soon as the cold intensified.
Mandeep and Gurpreet Singh, who are among the 80 people from Punjab’s Sangrur to come to Singhu border 10 days back, said having winter wear at a stone’s throw was of great help to their cause.
“It is warm during the days but for the last two days, the nights have been chilly. And although we have come prepared with enough blankets and jackets, we don’t always get to wash them regularly.
“So having an option of buying warm clothes and at such cheap prices really helps,” Mandeep said.
Lali Inderpal, a resident of Ludhiana who has also been camping here for the last 10 days, bought three jackets for himself for Rs 350 each.
“Even though we have enough winter clothes, we don’t know how long we will have to stay here. As it is getting colder, we think it would be wise to stock warm clothes.
“If not for us, it will be useful for someone else during these trying times,” he said.