Srinagar: Eight months after it was shut due to Covid-19 outbreak in Kashmir, the popular Sunday Market in the heart of Srinagar will spring back to hustle and bustle this weekend, the district administration said on Friday.
The 3-km-long Sunday market was closed in March this year and even after many restrictions related to Covid-19 were eased subsequently, this popular market stayed closed.
The Sunday Market attracts thousands of people from across Kashmir. It offers wide range of products at low prices, ranging from apparels to footwear to a variety of household items.
Putting up their stalls and carts, hundreds of vendors occupy the roadsides from the Tourist Reception Centre (TRC) to Hari Singh High Street (HSHS). The line of stalls passes through Regal Chowk, Lal Chowk and Amira Kadal in the heart of Srinagar city. The whole stretch remains abuzz with customers all day. Vendors calling out to customers by loudly announcing the bargain prices is the distinctive sound of the market.
For the last eight months while this stretch has lain deserted on Sundays, the vendors have not been able to earn anything. The administration has neither let them set up stalls, nor occupy footpaths or the roadsides with carts. The vendors at the Sunday Market had already been forced out of business by the months-long lockdown that was clamped at the beginning of August last year, when the abrogation of Article 370 was announced.
The vendors had been trying to make the administration relent, pleading that they were in dire straits due to the back-to-back lockdowns, but the administration had paid no heed, until now.
“We’re completely shattered. We’ve reached the brink of starvation. The Sunday Market was our lifeline, which was abruptly cut off and then for months we were left at god’s mercy. Only the Sunday Market stayed shut while everything else was opened,” Farooq Ahmad, a vendor, said while talking to Kashmir Reader.
Ahmad said that some vendors have turned to work as manual labourers in the face of starvation or the pressure to pay back loans.
Hilal Ahmad, member of the Makkah Market Association, told Kashmir Reader that they reached out to officials for permission to open the Sunday Market, but they failed to get any final word from the authorities other than assurances.
“We have not been allowed to do our regular business at Sunday Market for the last eight months, during which all the while we kept requesting the authorities to allow the market to open,” he said.
Deputy Commissioner Srinagar Shahid Iqbal Choudhary told Kashmir Reader that the market will be allowed to operate from this Sunday. The decision has been taken, he said, after holding detailed deliberations with the market coordination committee and other stakeholders. The administration will ensure strict compliance of Covid-19 guidelines, he said.
“We had a meeting with the organising committee and also informed the stakeholders about Covid protocols they would have to follow to operate at the Sunday Market. Even last Sunday, some vendors had been allowed to set up stalls. Expect the market to be fully open this weekend,” the deputy commissioner said.