Updated on 6 Nov 2021, 3:06 am
Ima Keithel, Khwairamband, imphal (Photo: IFP)
The markets in Imphal are crowded and earn large profits every year on Ningol Chakkouba, a special festival celebrated by the Meitei community to strengthen the bonds of love between married women and their parental families. However, this time, the customers were few and the three markets under Ima Keithel sold little this year.
Owing to COVID-19 pandemic, the three Ima markets were earlier closed. At the same time, new shops and business ventures were launched at different localities to sell various items and they are still continuing despite the reopening of the market. In connection with the festival, many shops were opened by giving special offers at road sides and different localities. Above all, online shopping has further impacted the business of vendors at the Ima Keithel. These factors have caused their reduced sales.
Among the buyers, a 53-year-old woman who came to buy gifts for her daughter, daughter-in-laws, and son-in-laws expressed concern to the Imphal Free Press that the prices of commodities have skyrocketed.
“It is true that the people have been affected by COVID-19 and lived in fear for many months during the pandemic but we want to celebrate the festival as it comes once a year. It will be very helpful for the people if the state government looks into these issues and fixes the prices of the things.”
The women vendors who sell clothes at the three Ima Keithel sheds expressed that since the last Ningol Chakouba of 2020, there has been a significant reduction in sales when compared to previous years. Also, there has been a big difference in sales between the previous and the present Ningol Chakouba, they expressed. They expressed concern that trends of buying from shops run by non-locals instead of shopping from Ima Keithels vendors have increased.
Fruits and vegetables vendors at Ima Keithel sheds further said that people are buying more from street vendors instead of buying from those vending at the sheds.
When inquired, a sales-boy from one of the utensils shops run by a non-local, told the Imphal Free Press that the selling rate has gone down when compared with previous Ningol Chakouba festivals. Earlier, the shops used to earn a profit of more than Rs 7 lakh during Ningol Chakouba but they made a profit of only Rs 3 lakh during the previous and this year, he said.
While roaming in and around the Khwairamband market, this IFP reporter noticed that many sales-boys from the clothes shops were selling their products as vendors on the sidewalk in-front of their shops. It attracts more pedestrians and gathers more shoppers.
Although they wore masks, it appeared as if everyone had forgotten about COVID-19 and abandoned all SOPs and Covid guidelines.
Ima market vendors had high expectations of selling and earning more profit during the festival, considering that their sales were largely affected due to COVID-19 pandemic from the previous year. However, the changes brought by the pandemic and adaptation into new ways of life by the public in terms of shopping and consumption, left them high and dry.
IFP Reporter, IMPHAL, Manipur