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By organizing an education and career guidance programme for under-privileged high school students, the Puducherry Sunday Market Roadside vendors have won plaudits for their unique initiative.

The vendors at the Sunday Market are largely small operators with meagre resources.  But it is their own humble beginnings, with many of them having been unable to complete school, that has pushed them to encourage their own children and those in the locality to pursue higher education. And this conviction on the importance of education as a key to a better life was the driving force for the  career guidance event on July 2 at the Livelihood Centre for Marginalized People in Lawspet, with members of the Roadside Vendors Association participating in large numbers,  foregoing their earnings for one  Sunday.

T Suresh President of the Association which comes under the Puducherry Region Roadside Vendor Association, outlined the aim of the programme. “We wanted to recognize and honour the students from government schools, who were unable to attend regular school for the past two years, yet had studied hard at home and excelled at the public exams,” he explained.

Offering an insight into the unique vendor community, Mr. Suresh said: “The Sunday Shandy on Mahatma Gandhi Road in Puducherry has been in operation for over 40 years. There are over 500 members in the Sunday market vendor Association.  They are permitted to open their roadside temporary shops only on Sunday.  Even though there are permanent shops on the road, they remain closed on Sunday to allow the small vendors their space for a day. These shops remain open from 6 in the morning to midnight, offering a range of products from garments, household articles, to antiques and other goods at bargain prices. So most of the evenings are full of people wanting to buy their needs from these roadside vendors.”

The vendors at the Sunday Market are largely small operators with meagre resources.  But it is their own humble beginnings, with many of them having been unable to complete school, that has pushed them to encourage their own children and those in the locality to pursue higher education

“Since the market is restricted to just one day of the week, most of the vendors go in search of festivals in the nearby area to sell their wares or work as labourers through the week. The women who operate the Sunday shops work as domestic helps or take up other temporary jobs to help run the families,” he said.

Participants at the career guidance program

Pointing out that this unorganised sector had been badly hit by the COVID pandemic and resultant closures, Mr. Suresh said: “We identified 63 students from marginalized families who had successfully completed the +2 exams. To encourage them, we visited each of them at their houses, and presented a shawl and sweets in felicitation. This counselling programme is an extension of that effort in guiding students.  We have purchased and distributed free of cost ‘Seek Newer Things’, a publication from the Bharathi book shop that provides complete details of the courses they could pursue to enhance their capabilities.”

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The event saw a large turnout of +2 students  from families of the roadside vendors, domestic workers and members of the washermen community.  The session began with an introductory speech by J. Krishnamurthy, Secretary, School Education Protection Wing.  Pon Dhanasekaran, from the media then took questions from the students on choice of subjects and colleges for higher education.  Other speakers at the event included Pravin, Area secretary of the Puducherry Indian Students Association and T.G. Muniammal, President of the Puducherry wing of All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA).

Mr.  Suresh, R. Anbazhagan, Vice-President, H. Ramaswamy, Secretary and Assistant Secretaries Meerabai and Karthikeyan of the Vendors Association also attended the programme. The co-ordination and arrangements for the programme was supervised by Vice President Ravi, Secretary Stella ably assisted by other members of the association. The entire cost of the event was covered by contributions from members of the Association.

The initiative by the street vendors underlines the prophetic words of Bharathiyar who said: Is there now a life where people watch as people suffer.


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