Bhopal: It is 4.30 pm and Govind Ram from Rajasthan is still awaiting his first customer of the day at his stall at Lokrang – a signature five-day festival of state culture department organised every year on Republic Day. This is the 33rd edition of the event. Govind who has brought a range of short and long ‘kurtis’ from his native state doubts whether he will be able to cover the expenses incurred on transportation and his stay in the capital. Small mercies, they are not charged anything for the space. “You just stand here for an hour and I bet you will not see single customer,” he told Free Press.
The artisans at other stalls, about 500 of them neatly lined up at the sprawling BHEL Dusshera Maidan, are in similar quandary. They are here to sell traditional and modern dresses, woollens, bed linen, decorative items of clay, bell metal, brass, wrought iron, which are all handmade.
The stalls do not carry any signboards to indicate what is available and which state an artisan represents. “Earlier, arrangements were in place that helped people to locate the shops selling things they wanted to buy. But this time, the allotment is haphazard,” says Amir from Jammu and Kashmir.
A majority of artisans blame the location of venue for listless response from people. For the last two years, Lokrang is being organised at BHEL Dusshera Maidan instead of Ravindra Bhawan premises.
Tapan from West Bengal who brought grass mats and wall hangings for sale said that he has been putting up stall at the festival for past 18 years. “Ravindra Bhawan was located at the junction of the old and the new cities. This place is far off. As compared to Ravindra Bhawan, the business is down here by 30 percent,” he remarked.
“This ground is too big and people feel lost here,” said an artisan wishing anonymity. Others feel that dozens of shops selling the same wares are also to be blamed for tepid response. Besides, GST and demonetisation are usual suspects.
Nasir Ali from Varanasi whose stall glitters with stunning Banarsi saris is equally disappointed. “Our products are reasonably priced but people still haggle for hours,” he said.
In the same vein, Pawan Kumar from Himachal Pradesh says, “Response is poor. I think biting cold is one of the reasons.” Pawan is selling woollens ranging from caps prized at Rs 200 to blazers costing Rs 6,000.