Vendors’ losses mount; shoppers want to avoid it
Dodging vehicles, and managing her bags while preventing the loose end of her dupatta from dragging in the muddy path, a woman struggled to walk on the broken path. A little boy ran in a zigzag manner to steer clear of the cement piles on the footpath. A little girl sat on her father’s shoulders eating potato chips while he tried to duck the pile of broken tiles.
The Observer saw a shopkeeper sitting near the counter looking for a customer. Another shopkeeper was sweeping away the debris lying in front of his shop. A tussle between the shopkeepers to win customers was a common scene. Assistants from shops ran around trying to lure customers.
Commercial Street, which once used to be packed, is now largely empty. With construction work going on, shopping there is not easy.
Vendors say their losses have increased due to a reduced number of customers.While they faced losses during the pandemic, the construction work has killed their hopes of a financial revival.
The makeover project, under the Bengaluru Smart City Ltd, (BSCL)was started in May 2020. Since then, the project has only brought troubles to the shopkeepers. With water logging and tiles coming out, they have suffered losses.
Susheelamma N, joint MD of BSCL, informed The Observer: “The work will be completed soon. There have not been any cost overruns as such” She added she is aware of the losses that the vendors are facing but believes that things will get better soon.
Lokesh Singhal, the owner of Toy World, said: “The number of people visiting the street has decreased substantially, and that is because it is inconvenient to shop here. The street is full of dust and cement, and looks ugly. Streetlights work sometimes; sometimes they don’t.”
Tarik Iqbal, who owns an antique shop in the market, shared: “The work, if implemented well, would have brought us a lot of profit. But they gave the work to the wrong contractor. It is a mess here. We have accepted that we are going to see hard days ahead.”
Prakash, a stationery shop owner, said: “The number of students coming into the shop has declined. The government made many promises, but nothing has happened. We are facing losses over losses.”
Babita Kumari, a regular visitor to the street, said: “There is no space to walk here; half of the road is occupied by cars and the footpath is broken. The shopping experience is very bad now”
Astha Sudhanjula, a regular visitor, said: “I have sinusitis and it is triggered when I come here. I visit Commercial Street only when it is absolutely necessary. Because the road is so congested, there is no space to park vehicles. With so much dust, I prefer going to a market near my house.”
The Observer saw a different picture in a neighbouring market called Ibrahim Sahib Street. The market was flooded with customers. The street was covered with layers of multi-coloured bangles and dupattas.
Vendors of Commercial Street fear the reconstruction project might lead to a long-term damage, with them losing a chunk of regular shoppers.