While the director of Social Welfare, Mr Vijay M Paranjape, his deputy, Mr S Fernandes, and CCP officials refused to divulge the reason behind the scraping of the Rs 5,000 vegetable vendor scheme, this daily has learnt that all and sundry could claim to be traditional vendors and get the benefit of Rs 5000.
Like Ms Rosy Dias from Carmona, traditional vegetable vendors from Quepem, Cuncolim and Canacona start their day at 4 a.m. They purchase traditional vegetables from wholesalers or horticulture farmers on the outskirts of Gandhi Market, Margao and elsewhere. The case is the same in Panaji, Mapusa, Vasco and other places. Rosy, who is in her late 60s contributes to her family’s earnings, by selling vegetables.
When asked if she received Rs 5000 from the government, she said, “Yes, that was three years ago. I was fortunate to receive it.” Showing the purple-pink tax slips she has collected over the years she said, “I am paying Rs 300 monthly to the municipality.”
Her neighbour, Sumitra, said, “I was told that I would get Rs 5,000 from the government two years ago. Now, a new person comes to collect tax from us. They are not the same people who come to collect Rs 300 from me.”
On an average, the traditional vendors earn a profit of Rs 100 to Rs 150 a day, out of the daily purchase worth Rs 500 of traditionally grown vegetables. Like Sumitra and Pascal, there are 30 plus traditional vegetable vendors who squat near the Margao police station and continue to work and earn the hard way, getting up at 3 or 4 a.m. to prepare for their daily work. Most of them are not aware of the Rs 5,000 scheme.
Traditional vendors sitting on the edge of the old station road with their backs towards the market shops, say that they try and sell as much as possible before the shops open for the day. They said it was nice to hear the news that there was a scheme for the vegetable vendors. Now they say that too has gone away.
Government sources in the know, but wishing anonymity, said that the vegetable scheme of giving Rs 5000 is strictly for those Goan vendors selling traditional vegetables on the road sides and around the market square or those carrying it on their heads to places where consuming locals would wait for them.
It so happened that everybody and anybody, even those who are not vendors found a way to fleece the government of Rs 5000, thus misusing the scheme meant for the traditional poor vegetable vendors to transport their ware.
One of the modus operandi was to act as a traditional vendor for a few days to receive the Rs 5,000 vendor scheme, and then disappear from the market place, this number reached 42,213 vendors as reported in this daily on March 22.
“I don’t believe we have this many traditional vegetable vendors,” said a CCP official, adding, “There could be less than 100 traditional vendors in Panaji market alone, taking the areas of Marcel, Pernem and Talegaon into consideration the number could be less than 1000 and considering the whole of Goa, the number could be around 10,000, which itself is too many.”
“So from where these 42,213 traditional venders cropped up is the big question,” said the CCP official, adding, multiply this figure by Rs 5000 and it works out to about Rs 21 crore, a whopper of a burden on the state.”
For collection of sopo, CCP has contracted via tender, so they have received their lump sum payment. There are various types of sopos, which include car parking.
In charge of the scheme, the director of Social Welfare, Mr Paranjape refused to comment saying we proposed that the scheme be scrapped, which the Chief Minister, Mr Manohar Parrikar has rightly done, adding, “further than this, I have nothing to comment.”
Mr Michael Lobo, the Calangute constituency MLA said, “I requested the Chief Minister not to scrap the scheme but to identify the genuine traditional vegetable vendors, so they can benefit from the scheme. Because of some scrupulous vendors our local vendors must not suffer.”
“The agriculture department is not doing enough to improve agriculture produce. All they do is talk on paper. They could start encouraging locals to cultivate their backyard, give horticulture farmers more leverage but nothing is being done, and an agriculture college is too far fetched an idea,” says Mr Lobo. [NT]