Fish sellers see a dip in sales due to less footfall and construction work.
As the afternoon heat dries up the water around the fishes in his stall, Saaed sprayed some water on them. With a half-empty bucket, Saaed looks at the sun, fearing how much more water he can spray on the fishes. “I have no idea till what time I can keep my stall open. I have to spray water on my fishes every five to ten minutes. Earlier, my full stock used to get sold by afternoon. But nowadays, all I do is spray water,” he said.
Khan, another seller, complained about how the construction near the market has resulted in fewer sales. “I had better sales during Covid-19 than what the situation is today. People hardly come and those who come buy one or two fishes. I have reduced the rates of most of my fishes by Rs. 50 to Rs. 200. Still, there are fewer buyers,” Khan added.
The Covid-19 pandemic on an average inflicted a daily loss of Rs. 224 crore on the fishing sector in India, the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology report estimated. Like Saaed and Khan, many fish sellers in the Russell market face similar issues. In June 2021, the then chief minister (CM) BS Yediyuruppa announced financial relief of Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 18,746 registered fishermen with the government.
Mustafa Khan, a resident of Sheshadripuram who buys fishes from Russell market said that his family has reduced its consumption. “We used to eat fish daily before and during Covid-19. Nowadays, it’s once or twice a week. There is no specific reason for that,” he added. Another customer said that they have started to eat more fish than before.
Data from NFHS-5 showed that in over half of the 30 states and union territories, more than 90 per cent of the population eats fish, chicken or meat on a daily, weekly, or occasional basis. The majority of vegetarians are found in the northern and central states whereas the eastern, north-eastern, some western (except Gujarat), and southern states have a majority of non-vegetarians.
Neha Wajahat Qureshi, a scientist of fisheries economics at the Central Institute of Fisheries Education said that the consumption behavior of people about fishes has changed with time. “People in eastern and north-eastern states consume maximum fishes and non-veg items when compared with western states like Gujarat and Rajasthan. This is majorly because of their religious beliefs. The National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) has many schemes that aim at mass consumption of fish around the country,” she said.
Due to less supply from fish suppliers in Tamil Nadu, fish sellers have less fresh fish. “I cannot afford a frozen set-up to keep my fish fresh. I buy limited fish from Tamil Nadu so that I can sell them in a day,” said Saaed.
“Also, the fall in the consumption is due to hygiene and health factors post-Covidand the unavailability of fresh fishes in the markets,” Qureshi added.
“When construction happens, there are some disturbances too. Shivaji Nagar has very narrow lanes and most of the people who come for shopping in the area visit Russell market. During the planning for the smart city project, there is a checklist maintained by the officials. It has factors ranging from administrative efficiency to the time period of the proposed project. One thing it misses out on is the issues faced by people during the construction,” said B Mahendra, an urban town planner based out of Bengaluru.
The project work in Shivaji Nagar aims to provide proper infrastructure. Also, it aims to revive the core economic and market center of the city by connecting it with the Shivaji Nagar bus station and the proposed metro station.
Koranda K, executive chief engineer of the Shivaji Nagar project with BSCL said that the work was postponed due to Covid-19. “The work is steady now. A few disruptions due to rain are there but we have all the resources for the work. For some time, people have to cooperate with us,” he said.
Rizwan Arshad, a member of the legislative assembly (MLA) from Shivaji Nagar said that the construction work is for the welfare of the people in the area.
The Russell Market is over 95 years old and is the oldest market in the city. It is home to shops and stalls that sell items ranging from flowers, meat, vegetables, clothes, accessories, etc.