Over the years Srinagar’s Sunday market has evolved into more than a flea market. It has become an alternative source of income for educated and jobless youth. But the livelihood comes with a price. Saba Khan reports
For Jan Mohammad, 25, who hails from Alamgiri Bazaar in Srinagar, Sundays were never the same after he completed his graduation. During his college days, Sundays usually meant playing cricket with friends, visiting relatives, making outings with classmates etc. It was the day to relax. But, that did not last for long. Jan, after completing his studies applied for a number of positions in both government and private sector, but to no avail. “I couldn’t have waited forever,” says Jan. “I had to do something to feed my family.”
After deliberations, Jan finally started his “business” from Srinagar’s famous Sunday market. “I sell utensils at the Sunday Market,” says Jan, with a hint of self-pity in his voice.
Since then, luck has been unkind. At least that is what Jan believes now, as he is supposed to get up at 5 AM every Sunday to make his ends meet.
Since 1990, Sunday market, stretching to almost two kms length – from Radio Kashmir to Jehangir Chowk – is a permanent fixture of Srinagar’s life.
Started as an alternative source of income for those who “failed to secure a government job” for one reason or another, Sunday market has now evolved into a fully organized market place. “There is something available for everybody,” says Ghulam Hassan, who has been selling second hand clothes for the last 20 years.
In 1990, the market was started by a group of educated but unemployed youth, mostly from Srinagar’s downtown areas, after securing a loan of Rs 50 thousand each from two local banks. Those were the formative years of this peculiar market.
Since then, every Sunday, vendors like Jan erect stalls and spread out their merchandise: including pillows, cushion covers, curtains, clothing and handicrafts etc. on the folding bunks.
The striking thing about this market is that the vendors are mostly educated youth with impressive graduate and post graduate degrees.
For instance, Showkat Ahmad, 30, a resident of Pampore, who has done his graduation from SP College, Srinagar in 2012, sells clothes to make his ends meet.
A few meters from Showkat’s stall, young Ehsaan is using his lyrical voice to attract customers’ attention. Ehsaan, 24, who hails from Hazratbal, has done B.Com from Islamia College, Srinagar. He sells grocery items to scrape out a living. “I submitted a number of forms for government posts, but nothing happened. I only ended up paying fee for these forms,” says Ehsaan.
A few yards away, opposite Mughal Darbar eatery, Sabir, 27, is busy negotiating with customers. He is a post graduate from Kashmir University. “In absence of any job and pressure from my family to work, I had to choose this business,” he says.
Unlike Sabir and others, many youth denied giving details about identity fearing “shame” as they had been vending groceries and cloths despite lofty education background.
“Educated youth suffer because of unemployment,” one of the vendors told Kashmir Life. “It has become business of government to extract revenue on the name collecting forms and other things. Posts are already appointed for those who bribe them.”
Irfan, 26, a fresh graduate from Kashmir University, sells clothes and other items for living on Sundays. For rest of the week, he works with a private company. “Most of the jobs are given to rural people because they have backward certificates,” claims Irfan, “While youth from Srinagar are forced to do menial jobs despite good educational background.”
Another pressing issue that these vendors face is of constant harassment from authorities, alleges Irfan. Sabir alleges that it’s the police and municipal authorities who are pushing jobless educated youth further down the social ladder. “We have already put everything on stake for sake of our families. If this harassment continues, I don’t know where we will land up next.”
Sabir alleges that the municipal authorities are pushing jobless educated youth further down the social ladder. “We have already put everything on stake for sake of our families. If this harassment continues, I don’t know where we will land up next.”
A senior vendor, who sells household items for living, reveals that initially authorities were supportive as they thought this will keep youngsters away from crime and other anti-social activities. “But I don’t know why all of a sudden they have changed their minds,” he asks.
Kabir, 23, a youngster from downtown, who sells second hand jackets from a stall for living, alleges that he is being constantly harassed by the police. “All they want is money. But how can I let them have what I earn so hard,” alleges Kabir. “We just want to work respectfully.”