Madiha peels garlic, and sells it by the bag, on the pavement in front of a wholesale grain shop in the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Yard. She has been selling garlic in the same spot for about 20 years now.
During the first half of her day, she works as a cleaner in the grain shop sweeping, mopping and dusting the shop and doing other odd jobs like serving the shop owner his lunch. In the remaining time, she handles her garlic business—peeling, cleaning and sorting the garlic into bags.
Food vending as an occupation is dominated by men in our sample, with 77.5% male vendors and 22.5% female vendors. The low presence of women in APMC can perhaps be attributed to the way in which APMC is a government regulated market space, dominated by large, wholesale rice and grain shops. Such establishments require an APMC license to operate and are largely run by men.
Madiha does not have a license but she says that the APMC authorities have never bothered her about it, since she is a small time vendor on the footpath. But she is quick to point out that it is not so easy to setup a
garlic business in APMC.
‘Just anybody will not be allowed to come and set up their shop here. Only if they are known by
someone here, they are allowed to set up business.’
There are around 15 garlic sellers on the same footpath, all of whom are women, some who have been doing it longer than Madiha. Men find other ancillary roles to play, most engaged in coolie work, in loading and unloading bags of rice and grain from vehicles.
In a focus group discussion with women sweepers at the APMC, the women said that since business in the larger market space has gone down, they have been rendered less and
less useful to shop owners.
One woman said, ‘If the material [rice and grains] does not leave the shop, does not get sold, then why would they need us to sweep and clean their shops?’