Protesters eat for free, vendors pay the price

Aug 22, 2012, 09:41 IST | Chetna Yerunkar

While MNS party workers 'enjoyed' a picturesque beachfront rally yesterday, the few vendors who decided to keep their fast food stalls open at Girgaum Chowpatty were plunged into an uncomfortable and loss-making situation.

Hopeful of making huge profits by catering to thousands of hungry protesters, the vendors ended up incurring losses of over Rs 10,000 each, as a slew of party workers demanded to be fed for free. 

party workers
Free food for thought: The vendors claimed they were too scared to ask the party workers to pay up

The stalls raise their shutters at 10 am daily and close at 10 pm, but most proprietors were forced to open and then quickly shut down again for a duration of two hours, after being unable to cope with the swelling crowds, which clamoured for free food.

The paanipuri and the pav bhaji stalls, which serve plates of their fare for Rs 30 and Rs 70 respectively, suffered huge losses yesterday, and soon closed down, realising they would run out of stock if they kept dishing out food for free.

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The vendors said that this was an unprecedented situation where swelling crowds actually turned out to be a deterrent for business. They claimed they were too scared to ask the MNS workers to pay up.

Bakelal Sharma, who runs an eatery at Chowpatty, said, “This is surely not the first time that we saw such huge crowds, but unfortunately, the public which is coming to eat here is not paying.

One person orders a plate of paanipuri and eats about four plates by calling in more people to share. We are helpless, as we can’t even ask them to shell out the money.” Suraj Whagmare, another stall owner, said, “It would have been better if I had kept my shop closed for the day. That way I would have at least saved on stocks. Now I am suffering losses as well as running out of supplies.”

Ravikumar Singh, a pav bhaji stall owner, said, “We never shut our shop, but when the huge crowds gathered we feared for our safety and also felt that it was a better idea to shut down. We had thought that doing business today would help us rake in more profits, but unfortunately all of us would be returning home with losses.”

On the other hand, MNS leader Shirish Parkar said, “I don’t think anything like this happened. There is some kind of misunderstanding here.”  

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