New Delhi


Every time someone approaches Rajveer these days, the first question they ask the ever-present vegetable vendor at Jangpura Extension is whether the prices of vegetables have increased. As they start examining the fresh potatoes and tomatoes, Rajveer quietly tells them that the price has gone up Rs 5 per kilo. There are groans and interminable attempts to beat the seller down to the previous day’s rates.  Rajveer claims to have little energy in these coronaviruscentric days to explain to each and every person how diffi cult it is to procure vegetables from the wholesale market and the risk he takes in going there to get fresh produce. For the 25-year-old and his family, residents of Taimur Nagar in southeast Delhi, vegetables are their livelihood and the nationwide lockdown changes nothing for them. To procure stocks from the Okhla Mandi each day, Rajveer, his elder brother and father wake up early enough to be able to reach the vegetable wholesale hub at 3am. “There are plenty of items available,” Rajveer admits. “But we don’t sleep when the neighbourhoods do. We are at the mandi, buying our daily stocks amid absolute chaos each morning. From trucks being unloaded of their goods to tractors and carts being loaded by vendors, it is a mad rush to get whatever one can,” says Rajveer. They return home around 5am and catch a couple of hours of sleep before setting out with their freshly laden carts. “It takes me an hour to walk from Taimur Nagar to Jangpura, but these days vegetables, especially fresh vegetables, are as precious as gold so my cart doesn’t last till the evening,” the young vendor says. “And for all the hard work we put in, shouldn’t we also get our fair share of earnings?” Rajveer tells TOI that he pushes his cart around the lanes of Jangpura Extension in the morning before settling down at one spot. “Those who know me come by to buy vegetables from me each day,” he says. “We know how important we are in times like this and I am glad I am able to help people out.” While there were reports of policemen not allowing vegetable hawkers and other essential service providers from moving around the city in the fi rst week of the lockdown, Rajveer himself hasn’t faced problems. “I was stopped a couple of times, but when I told the cops that I was required by people at such times they let me enter the colonies. People also wait for us on their balconies,” he says. In the past two weeks, Rajveer has felt special. “I understand how important it is to take vegetables to people’s home and I feel the love I get from them,” he smiles.