FESTIVE FERVOUR – Loss of business singes fire cracker dealers

With just four days to go for Diwali, the civic body’s decision to move stalls selling fire crackers from DP road near Mhatre Bridge to Mulik ground in Kalyaninagar has not gone down too well with the shopkeepers.

RD Satkar, who owns a wholesale fire cracker store, is visibly nervous and livid as he tries to look for a potential customer. “Diwali means happiness but, for us, things have not been happy at all until now.Ever since we have set up our shops in this place, customer footfall has been negligible.The business isn’t doing well at all and, under these circumstances, there is no reason for us to be happy . I simply do not understand why did the civic body decided to shift us from DP Road. They say that the road gets clogged due to the stalls that sell firecracker but there are so many areas across the city that remain encroached by makeshift stalls all the time,“ said Satkar.

According to the shopkeepers, with very few people knowing that the shops have been shifted, the number of customers has seen a massive decline with things not expected to improve much in the coming days.

The shopkeepers, while blaming the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) for not having announced the shift properly, have been forced to resort to different means, advertising on radio and social media for instance, to ensure that people are aware about their new location.

“Last year, during this period, we didn’t even have the time to have lunch or dinner thanks to the rush. However, this year, it is very disappointing as we are simply sitting idle most of the times. It has been four days now since we set up our shops here but the response has been nothing but pathetic.Retail shopkeepers are also keeping a distance as most of them buy crackers from the Deccan area which is where another wholesale market for crackers is located. There has been a drop of nearly 40 per cent in customers, including retail shopkeepers and regular clients,“ pointed out Deepak Rawal, who owns Yogeshwar Pyrotech, another cracker shop.

As of now, there are 36 stalls, associated with the Sarasbaug Patakha Association, at Mulik ground.

The civic body decided to move the shops from DP road after it received several complaints about the traffic mess in the area as a result of the stalls selling firecrackers.

Moreover, the civic authorities had claimed that last year, the shopkeepers had given a go-ahead to moving their location and had also submitted a letter to the effect.

Now, however, shopkeepers say they expected PMC to help advertise and create awareness about the shift in location. “It seems that they have done nothing at all. We have a base of regular customers and they have been calling us to know where we are. Some of the shops have printed pamphlets which they plan to distribute in different areas so that people know about us and come to Mulik ground. Some advertisements have been floated on radio channels too but, with very little time left for Diwali, things are not going as per our expectations,“ said Prajat Sawant, who owns Sai Patakha Mart.

Sawant added, “The stocks come from Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu and we will suffer heavy losses if conditions like these continue. For the first time, it will be a black Diwali for us. As it is, people now buy fewer crackers as compared to earlier days due to concerns about pollution.“

Nitesh Kurkarni, owner of Jai Bhawani Patakha Stall, provided a wider perspective to the current scenario. “The area around Laxmi road, which can be considered as one of the hubs of Diwali shopping, is located at a distance of just two and half kms from DP road.Earlier, people visiting the area for other festive shopping would then head towards the firecracker stalls. Now that we have been shifted here, the distance between Laxmi road and Kalyaninagar is around 11 kms.Even if people know that the stalls are located here, no one will think about travelling such a distance when the Kulachi Vadi area, which is another cracker wholesale market located near Deccan, is located at a distance of around 3.5 kms from Laxmi Road. As a result, even retail shopkeepers are opting for Deccan area instead of coming all the way here,“ Kurkarni said.

Buyers too agreed with the reasoning put forth by Kurkarni. AK Khanna, a businessman who was visiting the market along with his son, said that distance did make a difference.“I live nearby and that is why I decided to come here. If the stall were not here, I would have opted to buy crackers from any retail shop. I don’t think that the civic body has made a wise decision considering the fact that the stalls are set up at DP Road only for a few days before Diwali. If encroachment is a problem, they should be cleaning out permanent encroachments,“ Khanna said.

Source : TOI