IFP Editorial: With time, the market women relented and agreed to the construction of market complexes after several rounds of negotiations and assurances and the first floors remained a free space except for the basic amenities. Now the first question which comes to mind is, how did the government manage to convince today’s leaders of the market on the first floor construction.
Updated 12 May 2022, 11:58 pm
Once again, a controversy surrounding the three women markets is in the news and it was about allotment of shops newly constructed on the first floor of the Ima markets. The allegation was that some officials of Imphal Municipal Corporation (IMC) are demanding Rs 10 lakh each for allotment of a shop. Rubbishing the allegation, caretaker Mayor L Lokeshwar said that IMC is yet to invite applications for the shops constructed on the first floor of three Khwairamband Ima markets. Construction of more than 300 stalls on the first floor of three Ima markets is nearing completion, according to the Mayor.
To the general public, such construction activity on the first floor itself is news and strange at the same time. Before the just concluded general assembly elections people did not see any activity on the first floors and the work seems to have been taken up suddenly in war footing even before the new government was sworn in. The ground plus one structure of the three women markets of Khwairamband Keithel was newly constructed in 2013 after several rounds of negotiations between the state government and leaders of market women. The agreement then was that no vending licence would be given on the first floor and it would instead house basic amenities like banks and other facilities for the convenience of women vendors.
Earlier, there was stiff resistance from the market leaders against the efforts of the government to construct two storied structures due to a general apprehension among the women vendors as they believe the politicians and bureaucrats are upto some kind of mischief. They had seen enough instances of backdoor allotment of vending licences among the already crowded vending spaces and even allotment of imaginary shops in anticipation of new constructions above the RCC sheds of the then New Market and Laxmi Market.
The oldest women market Purana Bazar had semi-pucca structures having steel posts with curved CGI sheet roofs. This 500-year-old original women market was also the birthplace of two Nupilals in our history and it is considered to be the most important among the three markets. In these markets, the vending spaces were passed down through generations and it had been in the family members of the original vendors. In 1993 during President’s Rule, the then Governor General VK Nayar tried to construct new RCC sheds in place of the dilapidated structures. But, the General failed to convince the market women then and had to compensate with a new structure based on the original design but with better facilities like raised and dry platforms, new CGI curved sheets, better lighting and a drainage system.
With time, the market women relented and agreed to the construction of market complexes after several rounds of negotiations and assurances and the first floors remained a free space except for the basic amenities. Now the first question which comes to mind is, how did the government manage to convince today’s leaders of the market on the first floor construction.
We understand, a new crop of leaders have come up among the women vendors and they somehow maintain good relations with the present dispensation. Yet, their silence to the new development is indeed surprising given the legacy and spirit of our market women throughout history. While their silence is deafening, there is lack of transparency in the manner the new structures were put up overnight and even the proposed terms and conditions for selection and allotment of the new shops is not in the public domain. Something is rotten.