Amidst the district administration’s decision to relocate the “Sabzi Mandi” (vegetable market) in Charsadda, widespread resistance has emerged from vegetable vendors and traders across the district.
In response, they’ve jointly announced a boycott of selling vegetables. This boycott has significantly impacted the district’s vegetable supply, leading to an alarming surge in vegetable prices. The cost escalation has reached a staggering 60%, and in some instances, even 80%.
Last week, the Tehsil Municipal Administration (TMA) issued an order that cast a shadow over the shopkeepers who were conducting business in the rented spaces of the Sabzi Mandi in Tehsil Charsadda. The order maintained that the land in question is the property of Islamia College Peshawar, despite the local administration having initially granted permission. Additionally, a new market has been established at a distance of one kilometer from the former vegetable market to accommodate the traders.
Protesting this edict, vegetable, and fruit vendors brought traffic to a halt at Farooq Azam Chowk in Charsadda on Monday. Their demand was straightforward: the new vegetable market is situated far from the city center, offering inadequate protection and facilities for workers.
In the midst of the protest, Haji Shahroom, the President of the Vegetable and Fruit Vendors Association, conveyed to TNN that the matter of the vegetable market involves a dispute between Islamia College and the vendors, with no legal justification for TMA’s intervention.
Shahroom highlighted that the court has already ruled in their favor after months of legal proceedings. The court’s verdict favored the vendors against the transfer of the vegetable market and the TMA’s intervention. Consequently, the administration’s disregard for the court’s ruling is perceived as a violation of judicial authority.
Elaborating on the economic challenges, President Shahroom stated, “In the existing market, we own five-marla shops with a monthly rent of Rs 12,000, whereas the new market charges Rs 30,000 for an 8-foot shop, along with an upfront deposit of Rs 4 lakh. This financial burden is beyond our workers’ capacity.”
Furthermore, Shahroom raised concerns about the new market’s security inadequacies, particularly considering that business activities often commence as early as 4 am. Given the substantial sums involved, the risk of financial loss during transit is significant.
Undeterred by the administration’s stance, Shahroom firmly rejected the unlawful demands and declared that until orders are issued to reinstate the original vegetable market, vegetable supply in Charsadda would remain suspended.
These ongoing protests over the last two days have precipitated a noticeable surge in vegetable prices across Charsadda and its adjacent areas.
According to Hasan Gul, a vegetable vendor at Charsadda’s vegetable market, the recent protests of the past two days have precipitated a decline in vegetable supply, resulting in a significant surge in prices.
Gul highlighted that just two days ago, tomatoes were priced at Rs 60 per kilogram, a figure that has now skyrocketed to Rs 200. Likewise, the cost of pumpkin, zucchini, cucumber, and potatoes has surged by Rs 20 per kilogram. Meanwhile, cabbage, onion, okra, and turnip prices have surged by Rs 40 per kilogram. Gul expressed concern that if the protests persist, the supply of vegetables could further dwindle, intensifying price hikes and placing an additional burden on consumers.
Ilyas Khan, a 60-year-old customer who had come to the vegetable market to purchase produce, shared his experience. He expressed his inability to afford vegetables at the current prices, noting that today, rice would be the mainstay of their meal due to the exorbitant cost of vegetables. Khan, who relies on a walking stick due to his disability, lamented the inconvenience posed by the relocation of the vegetable market, now situated one and a half kilometers away.
Muhammad Shah, a young man visiting the market, also voiced his apprehensions about the move. He emphasized that the convenience of purchasing various items alongside vegetables would be lost, as the new location would entail both increased expenditures and time wastage.
The contested vegetable market, nestled between the City Police Station and Parang Police Station of Charsadda tehsil, occupies a commercial plot with a monthly revenue of around Rs 16 lakh. The market’s establishment has led to traffic congestion on Peshawar Road, Nowshera Road, and College Road, exacerbating existing traffic issues.
Chairman of the Tehsil Municipal Administration, Mufti Abd-ur-Rauf Shakir, informed TNN that the contested market belongs to Islamia College. The college has petitioned the TMA via the provincial government to transfer the land’s ownership to the vegetable vendors.
Mufti Abd-ur-Rauf clarified that the vendors’ continued presence in the market lacks legal grounds. He revealed that the provincial government has directed them to vacate the premises. In his role as a public representative, he intends to mediate between the district administration and the vendors, seeking resolution through mutual understanding.
Abd-ur-Rauf underscored that while protests may not serve as the ultimate solution, the demonstrators should engage in constructive dialogue. He urged them to propose alternatives if the new vegetable market’s location proves unsuitable.