It’s a treasure hunt of a different kind. Fifty kilometres away from the Bhavnagar district of Gujarat, a small village called Mannar has been made famous not just because of its proximity to Alang, the world’s largest ship recycling yard, but also for the unique trade it now specialises in. The entire drive from Mannar to Alang is dotted by a line of shops called “khadda” in local parlance, selling items procured from ships that come for scrapping to Alang.
Once a ship comes to the shipyard and the oil is taken out from the tank, all the material inside the ship is sold through an auction to local traders. Each shop or khadda specialises in a particular type of good. There are some who sell old and used ship machinery, generators, steel pipes, gas tank, tyres, life boats and life jackets.
There is another string of shops exclusively selling kitchens and related items, furniture, crockery, durables like televisions, mini refrigerators, microwave owens, air conditioners and even sleeping bags and coffee machines. An avid searcher may also stumble upon some interesting paintings and artefacts that come with the ship. Even food and grocery items like rice, sugar, spices, etc on the ship get sold off.
“Nothing on the ship goes waste,” says V Agarwal, a khadda owner. A recent spurt in the number of ships coming to Alang for scrapping from Japan, the US and Europe has increased these traders' inventory. “Our business is run by the ship. The more the ships, the greater the business,” says Agarwal. There are some 400 khaddas on the 10-km stretch of road, mostly run by people from the farming class in the village and nearby areas. Most items are sold per kg. Buyers, mostly wholesalers, come from the hotel industry and pick up items like imported crockery, mattresses and kitchen units in bulk. Some retail buyers also drop by to shop for personal purposes. For most, it is not just an added source of income but also something to give a boost to their social status by owning a shop and running one's own business. “Kheti mein koi ladki nahin deta hai (nobody gets their daughter married to a farmer),” says Narsi Bhai Khodiyar, a local trader. Most of them make about Rs 10,000-20,000 a month from sales. Each khadda is rented for Rs 3,000-4,000 monthly.
Several ancillary industries keep their businesses running with items procured from the ships. A fleet of trucks comes to get steel sheets and planks used to make TMT bars. The oil taken out of ships is sold for refining, after which it is sold to auto-rickshaws, trucks, etc.
In between these ‘ship’ stores, some chinese goods shops have also sprung up. The owners want to make use of the location and get some business from those coming to shop at the khadda, making hay while the sun shines.