Srinagar, Jul 26: With less than a week left for Eid-ul-Adha, the famous Sunday market in this summer capital remained deserted as strict restrictions continued in view of rise in fresh COVID-19 cases and deaths in Kashmir valley.
Of the total 305 deaths since March this year, 270 people have lost their lives due to COVID-19 in 51 days, and 290 people in 65 day in J&K, where 523 new positive cases were detected on Saturday, taking the total number of infected persons to 17305.
The closure of the weekly flea market in the heart of the city, which used to attract customers from across Kashmir valley, has left people, particularly economically weaker section of the society, with no option but to celebrate this Eid without new clothes and other items, otherwise available in the market in reasonable rates.
“I used to buy clothes for my children from Sunday market as they were used to cost less and the quality of the products was also good. I have been purchasing cloths for my children ahead of Eid from the market from last couple of years. Last Eid the market was closed due to unrest post abrogation of Article 370 and this year due to COVID-19,” Javeed Ahmad, who alongwith his wife work as domestic help in Srinagar, told UNI.
Javeed said this year his children will be disappointed as he can’t afford to purchase new clothes for them from a shop. “We are already struggling due to COVID-19 and buying new clothes for my children from a shop is not an option,” he added.
Similar views were expressed by other people, who used to make purchase at the weekly market, particularly during festival season.
The 3-km-long Sunday market from Tourist Reception Centre (TRC to Hari Singh High Street (HSHS), including Lal Chowk, the nerve centre of the summer capital, Srinagar, remained closed since March 8, about three weeks before J&K witnessed its first COVID-19-related death.
The famous weekly flea market used to 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.
People associate with the market said that the business used to triple three to four weeks before Eid festival as customers used to throng the Sunday market in large numbers to make purchases, including clothes, shoes and other items.
However, the entire road stretch was deserted as vendors were not allowed to put up their stalls in the market in the city, where strict restrictions were re-imposed from for five days on Wednesday evening to Monday in view of upward spiral in the number of COVID-19 deaths and new positive cases.
“I used to setup stall in Sunday market and used to earn by livelihood. This was my sole sources of income. It is ironic that we were not allowed to put up stalls in the market. We understand that COVID-19 has to be curtailed, but if such is the case, why is the authority allowing labourers and inviting tourists to the valley. Will that not spread COVID-19 in Kashmir? Why is the administration keeping locals under lockdown and inviting tourists,” Tahir Ahmad, a vendor, told UNI.
Thousands of laboures have arrived in Kashmir valley during the last about 10 days, triggering panic among locals, who fear that the non-locals will further increase the spread of COVID-19. “If the government was serious about the spread of COVID-19 they could have asked the labourers to first obtain a Coronavirus negative certificate and then allow them to enter the UT,” he said.
Tahir asked if the UT of Ladakh can do this, why not J&K.
He appealed to the government to make arrangements so that business and curtailing COVID-19 could coexist. Similar, views were expressed by other vendors and shopkeepers in other markers.
Srinagar is the worst affected district in J&K in terms of causalities with 86 deaths due to COVID-19 while the number of positive cases has also swelled with 3793 people testing positive for the infection so far. The summer capital also has the lowest recover rate in J&K.