Away from air-conditioned malls and stores, a fledgling vegetable-based economy, scripted by farmers-turned-entrepreneurs, is booming alongside Goa’s busy streets. With their produce cheaper than malls and super-shops, the villagers are doing brisk business.
The stake-holders, mostly from villages surrounding the Agasaaim bypass, stumbled upon the trade after the then government took over their land for the project four years ago.
Tragedy struck Inacina Gonsalves (40) four years back when her land was taken over by then government for laying the detour. But that was the past. Inacina now earns her living by selling vegetables in the makeshift place along the very Agasaaim bypass which ploughed through the field that was once her own.
The bypass which took away the priced paddy field from Gonsalves family has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. ”Four years back, we lost our paddy field for the bypass. The state government did not compensate us for the loss. But the blessing in disguise was this business”, said Inacina who sells variety of veggies grown on the remnant of her paddy field. The detour was constructed to circumvent busy traffic along Pillar village, which houses a seminary, and is a seat for Catholic population. Inacina started selling vegetables along the bypass after coming to terms with the loss after the government took over the land. ”I was left with no option but to carry vegetables and sit along the bypass, scouting for customers”, she recalled. Inacina said she was the first person to try the road-side business in the area. Now, the bypass has more than 20 makeshift tables and huts set up by villagers of Goa Velha and Agassaim selling vegetables and most of them are affected by the bypass project.
“Vegetables here are cheaper. You can say almost 40 per cent lesser than the market price. And if you want to buy the same vegetables at chain outlets, then the price would be 200 per cent more”, said Ramdas Shankhwalkar, a government employee. Shankhwalkar is among several people who cross Agasaaim bypass after their office hours to pick up vegetables at affordable price.
Villagers of Agassaim and Goa Velha said they felt threatened by migrants selling tender coconuts and other vegetables. ”Bhaille (outsiders) have set up their tables on the highway. If we question them, they shout back at us asking whether the road belongs to my father”, said Agapitha Coutinho, a village lady. However, the peace-loving villagers have reconciled with the outsiders since last two years after constant wrangling with them. ”There are no fights happening here because we have adjusted ourselves to the situation”, Coutinho said.
Among various customers, the sellers here have an important clientele — those rushing to catch a flight. ”The bypass is an important link to the airport. Several people who rush to catch a flight carry back vegetables with them. It is like a memento for them. Taxi operators also help us in getting these customers”, said Antonio Gonsalves.
Goa government has also set up a special scheme for vegetable cultivators wherein they can sell their produce at select collection centres for a good draw. However, farmers say that they feel independent as they are on their own while doing the business along the bypass.