Monsoon is bad news in Koyambedu

The stagnant water inside the Koyambedu market complex

Megha Kaveri

Chennai: The Northeast monsoon has hit the vegetable supply in the Koyambedu market causing heavy price fluctuations. But the vendors here have something else also to worry about. The leaky roofs of the market and slushy pathways make their lives difficult.

Potatoes and carrots see no rate fluctuation but perishable vegetables like okra and tomatoes are selling for up to thrice their old prices. Items like chillies and coriander, which spoil easily, are being sold for a fraction of their cost, incurring losses for the sellers. For example, tomatoes that were sold at Rs.20 per kg a fortnight back, costs Rs.60 per kg now. Coriander leaves that were sold at Rs.25 per bundle costs Rs.6 per bundle now.

A comparison of the vegetable prices over two weeks

“There is less-than-usual incoming load of vegetables due to rain. Labourers are demanding more money to go to the fields and hence the price has increased. Based on our cost and the quantity that we receive, rates are fixed here every day”, says Ramesh, a vendor in the market.

Around 70 per cent of the vegetables are sourced from Andhra Pradesh and 20 per cent from Karnataka. Only 10 per cent of it is sourced from Ulundurpet and Villupuram in Tamil Nadu.

The vendors’ earnings have reduced by half.

Ponnusamy, a coconut vendor says, “Each of us have numerous loans and we return home almost empty-handed. The entire market is running on petty loans only”.

The other problem nagging the vendors here is the slush and stagnant water due to the rain. The water puddles help mosquitoes breed and that poses a health hazard for the people working there. The leafy remains of the vegetables decay and combined with the mud and water they make the ground slippery.

 

“Yesterday a man died here while trying to unload a bag of vegetables. He slipped and lost his balance with a heavy load in his head and died on the spot,” says a fruit vendor, also named Ramesh.

The slush in the market

The Koyambedu market is home for around 40,000 labourers toiling round the clock. They suffer from rashes and risk of communicable diseases due to the poor condition of the market.

They do not have any other place to go or an alternate employment during monsoon. “Our lives revolve around this market and we have no other employment opportunity either. Tell us if you have any job for us,” says Velayudham, forcing a smile.

Displaying the rashes in his foot, Rajakumar, another fruit vendor, says “They dress this place up only when some political leaders visit. Please ask the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) to clean this place. There are a lot of mosquitoes and the place has not been fogged for a very long time.”

Watch Rajakumar, a fruit vendor, talk about the inhabitable condition of the market.