Fire, flooding, pandemic push Chalai traders into misery

Waterlogging destroys stocks, dims hopes of tiding over lockdown-induced slump 

Published: 08th June 2021 06:50 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th June 2021 06:50 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: On May 10, sometime around 9 am, Noor Mohammed Sait, received a message that his shop could be flooded. He rushed to his shop only to see his shop flooded and stockpiles of books all soaked in water. It was just the pre-monsoon shower. Sait owns Bismi Books and Stationery, one of the go-to bookshops in Chalai street which offers notebooks at highly discounted rates to the public. A loss of more than `1.5 lakh has been assessed by the proprietor. 

“Since we were preparing for the school market, I had stocked up well in advance. Nothing could be done to salvage the books. The school market is one of the times when we see sales in huge numbers. But now everything has plummeted, and that’s when these incidents push us further into a crisis,” says Sait. 

One of the largest markets in the city, Chalai is also the oldest and assumes more significance with respect to its heritage. Hundreds of shops lie cheek by jowl as the market is experiencing yearly incidence of fire, with the latest on May 31. With the pandemic bringing life to a standstill for the traders, the extended lockdown further pushes them to the verge of bankruptcy. 

This coupled with the threat of another flooding in the wake of the onset of monsoon has further exacerbated fear among the community. The lack of an initiative to clean the drains by the civic body has been alleged as the reason for the recent flooding. The Chalai main unit of Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi (KVVES) submitted a memorandum to Transport minister and Thiruvananthapuram MLA Antony Raju seeking resolution in the issue of flooding and frequent fire incidences. 

“The traders in Chalai are already reeling under the effects of the pandemic. Coupled with that, such avoidable eventualities further push us into deeper crises. Many are nearly bankrupt and with the imposed lockdown, and no end in sight for a revival of the market, the morale of our community is low,” says Rafeeq A P P, president of Chalai main unit of KVVES. 

“During the first wave of Covid, even though the traders were affected, there was hope that we could recover from it. Just when things were picking up, the second wave brought it all crashing down. Shutting down the shops is not the solution nor is staggered opening which leads to rush,” he adds.Many shops in Chalai were affected in flooding. Mahesh Neelakandan whose textile shop Subha Matching Centre also figured in the lot. Mahesh suffered a loss of over `8 lakh. 

“All the garments got damaged. We have been witnessing frequent flooding in the stretch for the past several years. The improper drainage system implemented as part of Operation Anantha is the reason. Every time it rains, we are in fear. The economy is already bad,” says Mahesh. 

The need for setting up a mini fire station has been on the agenda of the Fire and Rescue Services Department and has been a long-pending request of the traders’ community as well. The recent fire at the toy shop in Chalai has further stressed the need to address the issue. “A mini fire station can be set up at Putharikandom Maidan. It will be much closer to the market and we need not wait long for the fire tenders to arrive. During the recent fire, the fire tenders could arrive fast as it was a lockdown and there was no traffic. And the fire could be doused quickly. Else it could have spread to nearby shops and led to a catastrophe,” says Rafeeq.



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