Koteshwor’s traffic jam is a nightmare for commuters. For hawkers, it’s a boon to their businessDozens of roadside wait for vehicles to come to a halt and linger for minutes so that they can earn their living.
For commuters, Koteshwor traffic is the bane of their daily lives. But for some, who earn a living by selling knick-knacks just when vehicles stop, it has become a boon.
On a recent afternoon, just as vehicles were brought to a stop by a traffic policeman, 13-year-old Hari Budhathoki picked up water bottles and dashed towards the vehicles. He managed to sell two to three cases of bottled water. He repeats the cycle every time traffic comes to a halt.
When the cars and buses begin to move, he returns to his mother who sells a medley of stuff on the roadside.
Budhathoki is one of dozens of such hawkers in Koteshwor area who earn money by selling an assortment of products—bottled water, chewing tobacco, cigarettes, packaged noodles—during traffic jams.
“I am too old to run around,” said Khuma Kumari, the mother. “My son helps me out to sell stuff.”
Budhathoki alone makes around Rs600 a day, contributing to his mother’s income. But in doing so, he is also missing school. Khuma, however, does not see that as a problem.
“That’s okay as long as he can earn,” she said.
Traffic police say the number of hawkers doubles during evening hours.
According to the data provided by the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division, every day from 8am to 6pm, at least 971,000 vehicles pass through Koteshwor Chowk.
“Traffic jams have become chronic in this area,” said Suresh K Thakur, chief of Koteshwor Traffic Police. “Managing the smooth movement of vehicles is a big headache for us.”
Well, what’s a headache to many is a soothing relief for some, like Parsuram Kaphle, who has been living in Kathmandu for the last five years.
The 53-year-old from Bardibas used to work at a paper factory in Bagbazar. “But two months ago, I left that job to sell bottled water and other small stuff here,” said Kaphle, who lives with his wife and their three-year-old son in Gwarko. “The income is better here.”
He sells a bottle of water for Rs25.
“I can buy a case of water which contains 12 bottles at Rs120. There’s a good profit margin,” said Kaphle. “I make around Rs800 selling water and another Rs200 from other items, which include cigarettes, tobacco, wafers and noodles.”
Traffic police say there is a need to manage such roadside hawkers because they add to the congestion and increase chances of accidents.
“They rush towards vehicles just as they begin to stop. But they do not care when the on-duty traffic policeman gives the green signal for vehicles to move,” said Thakur. “We can only tell them not to get into the middle of the roads. But it’s interesting that what has become a nuisance to commuters has become an opportunity for others to earn.”
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