KOCHI: The past few years have not been good for the Jew Town at Mattanchery. The flood and waterlogging, followed by COVID-19 have brought business to a grinding halt in the spot which used to witness heavy tourist arrivals.
As per rough estimates done by the entrepreneurs of Jew Town, the loss in the aftermath of Covid-19 is pegged around `75 crore to `100 crore.
“Things have not been working for the traders of Jew Town for quite some time. However, we used to make do with tourists who came by every other day, though not in large numbers like in the past,” said Junaid Sulaiman, owner of the Mocha Art Café in Jew Town. According to him, the last straw was the COVID-19 pandemic. “There have been no visitors since March 15 this year. We had been struggling to find customers even during the normal days,” he said.
According to him, the most affected are Kashmiri traders. “There are 39 Kashmiri shops. However, they have shut shop after customers stopped coming. The situation of these traders is very dire,” he said. Not only they have to pay the rent of the shops but also that of their accomodation besides salaries of their staff, he added.
Sunny L Malayil, president, Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said it is expected that areas such as Jew Town, spice trade and the boat service have incurred huge losses due to Covid-19. “We estimate that the Jew Town would suffer losses to the tune of Rs 100 crore,” he said.
“The direct expense incurred by the 39 Kashmiri shops is `1.5 crore while it is `2 crore per month for an owner of a Malayali antique shop. The other affected persons are the footpath vendors, boat employees, taxi drivers and spice traders,” said Junaid.
Of course, the government has announced a moratorium on loans. “However, we have no idea how this is going to help us. The only advantage is that it will buy us some more time to pay back the loans. There will be a freeze on the loan amount. But, what about the interest?” he said. For example, with the moratorium in place, a five-year loan will extend to six years and the interest increases proportionally, he added. “Jew Town will not be able to recover from the financial hit even six months after the Covid-19 pandemic is contained,” said Junaid.
Hence, the state government needs to come up with some plans other than loan moratorium to help the traders, he added.