Srinagar: The famous 3-km-long Sunday Market in the heart of the Srinagar city reopened after remaining closed for over eight months in view of COVID-19 pandemic.
Maintaining social distancing, hundreds of vendors have put up their stalls in the weekly flea market from Tourist Reception Centre (TRC) to Hari Singh High Street (HSHS), including Lal Chowk, the nerve centre of the summer capital, Srinagar.
However, very few people have turned up to make purchases in the market, which during this time of the year in the past used to be abuzz with customers.
The continuous closure of the famous market, which attracts customers from across Kashmir valley, since March this year, had badly affected to vendors, who claim that they have incurred losses to the tune of crores of rupees.
The stalls, which otherwise used to be places closely, were kept at a distance of six to seven feet from each other while an NGO, Global Youth Corps, was distributing masks in the market. The vendors have also put up banners at different places, asking customers to wear masks and maintain social distancing. “We were finally allowed to put up our stalls after over eight months. We have followed all the guidelines, including kept the stalls six to seven feet apart from each other to maintain social distancing,” Tahir Ahmad, a vendor, told UNI.
Another vendor, Shabir Ahmad said that majority of the vendors were facing starvation while some were working as labourers to feed their families. “Now that the market has been reopened, we are hopeful that customers will come to make purchases and we will be able earn our livelihood,” he said.
He said the vendors suffered last year due to curfew after August 5 when centre abrogated special status of the erstwhile state. But, he said, when things were returning to normal, restriction due to COVID-19 were imposed by the administration in March this year.
He said the government should come forward and help vendors who are registered. Similar views were expressed by other vendors, who used to put up stalls in the market.
The closure of the weekly flea market since March in the heart of the city had left people, particularly economically weaker section of the society, with no option but to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha without new clothes and other items, otherwise available in the market in reasonable rates.
The weekly flea market was closed on March 8, about three weeks before J&K witnessed its first COVID-19-related death. The market attracts thousands of customers from different parts of the Valley. Business worth crores of rupees was done every week in the market in which goods, ranging from a hairpin to carpets, were sold on economical rates.