Nainital, the City of Lakes, is one of the most famous tourist places in India. People from every nook and corner come to Nainital to enjoy its beauty, especially the hills and the Naini Lake. During the summer months, you'll see cars with number plates from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, etc. These people come here to enjoy the cool breezes which travel from the Himalayas to the close by Nainital.
The tourists also take particular interest in locally made products like clothes, wooden products, handlooms, etc etc. There is a particular place in Nainital known as 'Bhutia Market'. It's a Tibetan place that sells Tibetan and local things. It's is flooded with tourists 24/7. It's an unset rule of Nainital, that every tourist who comes to the city of lakes, has to visit the Bhutia Market.
The market consists of street vendors selling woollen cloths, local delicacies, entertainment spots like rifle aiming, the carts selling tea, bun butter, bun omelette, maize, etc etc. People love to enjoy themselves here. Not only tourists but the locals too. For the locals this is the main stop to buy clothes as the quality is good, the price is not too expensive and it generates employment. Once, I asked my mother, "Why do you need to buy a sweater from Bhutia market and not from a proper clothes shop in the mall road?", to which she replied, "Beta unki kamai ho jaaegi ghr chal jaaega unka."
In Nainital, localities care for localities. We still care but the local administration does not.
Earlier the street vendors could put up their stall from around 10 in the morning till late at night. But now this is not the case. Now you can only put up a stall from 6 pm till 8 pm. Just 2 hours. The local administration issued this order in 2021. When asked for clarification, the chairman of Nagar Palika said, "To avoid unnecessary rush we have reduced the time." The chairman for sure didn't realize that this is killing those stall owners. The most horrific part was that these restrictions were imposed only on the street vendors and not on permanent shop owners or hoteliers. Then later on COVID-19 came as a blessing in disguise for the chairman as he used COVID-19 to justify the restrictions. I thought the same would apply to hoteliers, shop owners, etc, etc, but they were let go. They were allowed to continue normally.
Only the poor were made to suffer.
I went to the market at around 7 pm last night. There was no space to keep my foot. I asked a fellow stall owner why there is so much commotion and he simply said, "Bhaya agar do ghnte key liye thela lagenge toh bheed toh hogi hi." I then ordered myself a cup of tea and started talking with the owner. The locals call him Daddu. I asked Daddu Ji about how his business has been affected due to covid and the earlier restrictions? He replied by saying that, "Hamara dhnda toh mahamari se pehle hi bnd kardiya tha prashasan ne. 2 ghnte mein admi kya hi kamaega. Jo bahar ka hai 2 ghnte toh usko sochne mein lag jaae ki usko kya lena hai."
After taking another sip of tea, I asked him how much time it takes to set up his stall?
"Beta km se km 30 minute chahiye thela lagane mein and badane mein aur ye sab unn 2 ghnto mein hi hona hai."
After a few more chats with him, I asked if you people have talked to the authorities about it and he said that talks have failed and the administration doesn't even want to talk.
The last question which I asked him was what happens if you stay beyond 8? Daddu Ji's answer was beyond horrifying, he said, "nagar palika ki gaadi bacha kucha samaan leke chale jaati hai and hamko fir fine dena pdta hai apna samaan chudwane ke liye." I paid him and then I left for my home.
As I reached my home, I could see my town glittering in lights, showing off happiness but what I heard from Daddu Ji showed me the dark side of Nainital.
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