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Ujyalo Bazaar helps the blind to establish stores

- LAL PRASAD SHARMA, BINA THAPA, Pokhara

Sep 25, 2017-

Laxmi Baral of Pumdi Bhumdi, Pokhara, whose husband suffers from a learning disability, was born blind. Until some time ago, the duo earned a livelihood by raising goats and buffaloes.

They gave it up after travelling to the forest to fetch grass and other fodder for the animals became too difficult. Now, they run a grocery store. 

“I started this business with the hope that life would become easier,” Baral says, whose son also helps her run the store. “Business has just started, and I believe that it will flourish as time passes.”

She opened the store with an outlay of Rs200,000, of which Rs25,000 came from their own savings and the rest from grants and loans.

Similarly, Sherjung Gurung of Khudi, Lamjung has started selling vegetables for a living. Gurung, who lost his vision at the age of three, is a third-year bachelor’s level student. “I chose this path because along with education, I also want to be independent. I am able to do all kinds of work. I believe that I will be able to do something in life,” he says.

Ujyalo Bazaar opened at Siddhartha Chowk in Pokhara with the aim of making blind people self-reliant. The market seeks to help blind people who are economically, socially and physically weak. 

Till date, 21 blind people have set up 30 grocery and other stores in the market. Satyam Waiba Tamang, who started a fruit business, believes that it will help him become independent.

Tamang decided to come here as his restaurant and mobile shop at Arba, Pokhara weren’t doing well.

Originally from Purankot, Lamjung, Soniya Gurung lives at Malepatan, Pokhara and runs a fresh house at the market. She sells a minimum of 10 kg of chicken meat daily.

“Although my sight is not good, I believe I can do my job. So, I opened this shop along with my husband [who is also blind],” said Gurung, who minds the store from early in the morning till nine in the evening. 

Driven by a strong belief that they can succeed in anything if given the opportunity, blind people have been starting various businesses.

Ujyalo Bazaar contains grocery stores, fruit and vegetable shops, milk stores, meat stores and fashion outlets. 

Blind people can get shop space at the bazaar rent-free for the first six months. After that, they have to pay a monthly rent of Rs3,500. 

“Our objective is to make blind people self-reliant,” said Parwati Kumari Sharma, president of Ujyalo Bazaar. “We plan to create a Rs30-million fund to run the bazaar in a smooth manner. We will raise more money if necessary.”

Realising that blind people depend on others and often have to live in humiliation, several entrepreneurs, businessmen and social workers started a movement after which Ujyalo Academy was established.

This academy now runs the market. “We expect support from everyone for this endeavour,” said Srikant Sapkota, promotional coordinator of the market who is also blind. 

Blind businessmen need to invest at least Rs25,000 of their own to start a business at the bazaar.

Grants and interest-free loans will be provided to them to establish their businesses. There are around 1,445 blind people in Kaski.

Published: 25-09-2017 08:57

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