NOTWITHSTANDING AN estimated loss of 15 per cent in sale revenue this Diwali, fireworks’ dealers who set up shop every year at Shahid Minar ground in Kolkata on Monday rued the exorbitant rent they have to pay to the Army — the ground belongs to it — to do business.
“When the Baji Bazaar started in 1995 at the Shahid Minar ground, we used to pay a rent of Rs 250 per day. Six years later, we started paying commercial rent. At present, we pay Rs 9 lakh for the whole ground. On top of it, we have expenses for setting up stalls, power connection and shifting the goods,” said Indra Budhi Raja, president of Burrabazar Fireworks Dealers and Manufacturers Association. This year, the Bazi Bazaar was held at the ground from October 24 to October 30.
He added that while initially, there used to be around 90 stalls at the venue, due to rising expenses, not many businessmen are interested in selling crackers at the ground anymore. “At present, the number of stalls has come down to 52,” said Raja.
Alleging that strict norms had led to disinterest among buyers, he said: “While the decibel limit across the country is 125, in Bengal, it is 90. Police also rampantly raid households which violate the rule.”
Members of the association are likely to write to the government to bring down the rent. “We will also request for a relaxation in terms of sound limit,” said Raja.
Shopowners at the ground said they had been incurring heavy losses. “We have been setting up stalls here for several years but business is so poor that we do not know whether we would be able to continue for too long. Compared to last year, the sale figures have dropped by about 15 per cent,” said a stall owner.
He added that stall owners should be given relief in terms of rent because they were “setting up shops at the Shahid Minar ground for public safety”.
“Almost all those who have set up stalls here have shops at different parts of Kolkata. We set up stalls here only because we are concerned about public safety. In a way, we are unnecessarily maintaining two establishments… Moreover, such bazaars have also come up at other areas of Kolkata. This had led to a lower footfall at the Shahid Minar ground,” he said.