Impact of COVID guidelines on Delhi's Durga Puja foodstall business

·5-min read
Representative image
Representative image

By Devashish

New Delhi [India], October 11 (ANI): Amidst the gloom and doom fueled by the COVID-19 health scare, a ray of hope beckons as India commenced the much-awaited festive season with Durga Puja starting from today.

Whether you're a Bengali or friends with a Bengali, the charm and allure of pandal-hopping during Durga Puja can be quite an experience. It's the time people come together to celebrate the many colours of rich and vibrant traditions, rituals, and culture.

However, the festive spirit has been tarnished this year too because of the ongoing pandemic. Though the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) had allowed the festivities, there are numerous restrictions that have led to limited pandals and gatherings of lesser people.

Also, under normal conditions, pandals offered various lip-smacking foods that are liked by many, but this is also not possible because of COVID. The DDMA had stated that no mela (fair), food stalls, processions and exhibitions would be allowed inside or outside the venues. Jhoolas (rides) and rallies would also be prohibited. The seating capacity of open venues would be decided by keeping in mind their size and social distancing norms.

This obviously has led to a major impact on the business of the vendors, who used to annually during this period set up their food stalls at the pandals where people in large numbers used to come. But as even the pandals are having low-key festivities, with some having a token system for visitors and some only allowing committee members, uncertainty has gripped as to whether even the markets near these pandals will have the usual galore of people.

As the guidelines clearly state that no stalls are to be set up at the pandals, hence the big question that boggles is that why would people even bother to come to the market?

"Like the previous year, there is the uncertainty of what the business will be this time around. There is no gathering, there's no pandal and this is every time the main attraction why people from all over Delhi come here. The first big question that we are having is that how many people will actually come and since last year the situation was similar, we do not have much hopes either," said Prodeep Bose, owner of a non-vegetarian food stall in the market 1 of CR Park, which is the address for a large number of people from the Bengali community, and its markets are known as the hub for authentic Kolkata-style food stalls and cuisine.

Devotees and enthusiasts from across the national capital hogging the streets of CR Park after visiting Durga Puja pandals is a sight common every year during the festive season. Normally, popular Puja pandals in the area are thronged by lakhs of visitors during the festival.

Subhashish Basu, who runs a Chinese food stall in the area, said, "Since the business has already been impacted by the pandemic and the consequent lockdown, hence we would be providing customers with the option of home delivery, either through Zomato, Swiggy or by calling. Last year, since it was the first time that such guidelines had been issued, several people had difficulty in reaching us, hence this time we aim to make them reach us through any available option, as this is the time of the year when the business is at an all this high and we don't want to miss out."

Further, highlighting the financial problems faced by the middle-class during the pandemic, Sourabh Das, a Kathi roll stall owner near Minto Road said, "A major problem is that people who generally spend, the middle-class, they are not having money this year. To be very honest, we do not know what to expect and we are simply going with the flow. Generally, this was supposed to be the time when I used to hire a few extra workers to cope with the increased sales due to the festival, but similar to last year due to the restrictions we are unsure regarding the sales."

The Minto Road Puja Samity has been hosting the Durga puja since the 1940s and puja there has always been about tradition, but this year, similar to everywhere else, it will be a low-key affair.

S S Prasad, General Secretary of Minto Road Puja committee, said, "We will be completely complying with the DDMA issued guidelines and just like last year the pandal will be set in a restricted manner inside the Minto Road puja campus. There will be a small Goddess Durga idol with entry only being allowed to 50 people at a time. People can do idol worship from far but those who want to perform rituals, for them there will be restricted entry."

Talking about the stalls that are usually a big part of the puja festivity, he added, "Apart from the general shops in the area, there would be no stalls set up this year too."

Furthermore, during the second COVID-19 wave, Delhi was one of the most infected cities in the country, and several lives were lost as a result, hence this will also be a reason behind the low-key celebration of the festival.

The festival season has commenced with Navratri and Durga Puja being celebrated during the same time. Following that Dussehra will fall on October 15 and Diwali on November 4. (ANI)

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