Revamp the Old Keithels

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The skirmish at the Ema Keithel that led to injury of one woman vendor is indeed unfortunate. Tussles break out often between the license holders and the non-license vendors. Visibly, the bone of contention is the right over commercial space. This commercial space has been shrinking with the growing population. At the same time there has been an overwhelming increase in the number of vendors who are not licensed. Surveys conducted in Keithel indicate the numbers of non-licensed vendors are higher than the license holders. Most of them are marginal income earners whose source of livelihood depends on the day’s ‘luck’ – if that is the right word. Each day is a harrowing battle for them. Finding two square feet of space to sell their vegetables heralds the day’s struggle. They have to be on high alert of raiding policemen. If caught unaware, their vegetable items may be forcefully snatched and thrown disarrayed on the footpath. Enduring the seasonal heat, rain and cold without a roof over their head for protection has come easy for them. The battle for space in the crowded Khwairamband is their primary concern. On the other hand, the licensed vendors feel threatened by their presence. They cannot afford to have business rivals who are not license holders. For that matter, the authority for issuing license to the vendors lies in the hand of the Imphal Municipal Council. The efficiency of this Council has always been doubtful on any given work. Perhaps their efficacy is seen only while collecting taxes from the vendors and the shopkeepers. Flagship programme like the Jawaharlal Urban Renewal Mission of which the Council is one of the important nodal agencies has already become history. The low floor buses of JNURM lying rusted in the compound of the then Manipur State Road Transport Cooperation is evidence of this. The temporary market area to the eastern side of the New Market indicates telltale signs of IMC’s mismanagement. This is the place where the Imphal District Hospital, the Hao Keithel, and many retailer shops were situated, until they were dismantled to give way to the BT flyover and the New Market. With no sign of any procedure to relocate the market at a permanent site, the present temporary arrangement is nothing but ghettoisation of the market within a garbage dump. The current rainy season makes it even worse for the vendors and the shoppers as well. All in all, the environment is putridly unhygienic, with all kinds of vegetables and fish being sold over the place. Not to mention that the state Governor had missed to visit this place in his sojourn to the three celebrated Ema Keithels. The three Keithels which are often vouched as sites of touristic interest has become one of the most unhygienic places in the town. As regards to the issue of managing the vendors, the only alternative is revamping the Keithels located elsewhere. Lamlong Keithel is one thriving commercial junction that attracts both buyers and sellers of the northeast pocket of Imphal. Likewise, the Singjamei Keithel, the Kwa Keithel, the Tera Keithel, the Kongba Keithel, and the Wangkhei Keithel Ashagbi, just to mention a few, should be given new energy. The previous experiment of relocating the vendors at Lamphel has failed. Reason being the failure to win the confidence of the buyers; therefore, the authority should break the mindset of the buyers that the best of the commodities are available only at Ema Keithel at the best price. The IMC along with the town planners must give a serious thought on this, and act soon. If not more fracas between the vendors at the Ema Keithel are in the offing. IMC must prove its worth now

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