Hundreds of woman vegetable vendors in Patna are looking forward to freedom from hardship as the Bihar government has decided to open swanky air-conditioned vegetable outlets for them.
"I heard the government plans to help us by opening vegetable outlets. It is really a good news for woman vendors like me," said Mangri Devi, a vegetable vendor.
The mother of five sells vegetables on the dirty, chaotic pavements at Antaghat, one of the retail vegetable markets here. "Life is not easy. I have been doing it for the sake of my family. I have no option," said Mangri Devi, whose husband works as a labourer.
Last week, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar decided to introduce 'Bihar Green' at a high level meeting in Patna. The project is aimed at helping vegetable farmers and vendors, particularly women, by opening vegetable outlets for them.
Vijay Prakash, secretary of the state welfare department, told IANS: "The project is one of the several moves by Nitish Kumar to promote agro-based businesses and empower women. The government has decided to form self-help groups of women involved in vegetable farming and selling the produce on the lines of successful milk cooperative Sudha Dairy".
Official sources said small vegetable outlets would be set up on the lines of Sudha Dairy booths. "To begin with, the small vegetable outlets will be set up near the existing Sudha Dairy booths in Patna and later in Darbhanga, Muzaffarpur, Purnia, Gaya and Bhagalpur districts," an official said.
The government plans to open its centrally air-conditioned vegetable outlets in Patna well before Reliance Fresh and other major players start their grocery retail business in Patna. "The women will be provided assistance in setting up their shops to run on minimum profit so as to compete with big business houses like Reliance," officials said.
They added that the government would train woman vegetable vendors and improve their communication skills. They will also be taught the importance of hygiene and how to keep vegetables fresh. These women would no longer sell surplus vegetables at slashed prices. "The women vendors will fix their own prices daily at the vegetable outlets," officials said.
"The government move has the potential to benefit vegetable vendors and farmers if the scheme is implemented sincerely," said a merchant at Bazaar Samiti. Bazar Samiti is the largest wholesale market of vegetables and fruits in the state.