Even as uncertainty induced by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic looms large over Hyderabad’s most-awaited annual extravaganza, Numaish, the organisers of the Nizam-era exhibition are hopeful of having an uninterrupted show, although a bit delayed or shortened in duration.
Continuing since 1938, the All India Industrial Exhibition witnesses the annual participation of traders and artisans from far and wide. From garments, jewellery, crockery, pottery, footwear, bags, carpets, furniture, leather products, and handicrafts indigenous to different regions, to electronic gadgets and household goods, across nearly 2000 stalls, the exhibition also features joy rides, eateries, and cultural shows. The Exhibition Society estimates an annual average of 22 lakh visitors during the 46 days starting January 1, every year.
While Numaish has been the go-to place for annual shopping as well as recreation and relaxation for a Hyderabadi household for the last several decades, traders and craftsmen are never disappointed with the revenue from sales. For the exhibition society, the proceeds from the allotment of stalls as well as entry tickets go towards enabling affordable education to girl students. As many as 18 educational institutions including polytechnic colleges across Telangana, all exclusively for girls, are run by the Society.
This year, however, the novel coronavirus continues to pose a threat to the 81st edition of Numaish. The state health department has repeatedly warned the public of a possible second wave of the viral infection, especially taking into account the dropping temperatures, festivals, and family gatherings. As of date, Telangana has recorded a cumulative caseload of 2.78 lakh novel coronavirus cases and reported 1,499 deaths due to the disease. The number of daily fresh cases has been below 500 in the last several days. The health officials have appealed to the public to avoid crowded places and not compromise on COVID protocols.
“We have not dropped the Numaish for the year, but deferred its inauguration until an appropriate time. This is primarily because the COVID protocol for large and fluid crowds is unclear. In the interest of all stakeholders, we would want to conduct the exhibition this year too, like every other year,” Aditya Margam, spokesperson and a managing committee member of the exhibition society, told indianexpress.com.
Even though such a deferment may result in a loss in revenue for the society and the educational institutions which are dependent on the exhibition, the organisers state that visitors’ safety is their prime concern. Changes in the exhibition’s layout, format, or restricted timings are all options available before the exhibition society.
N Vinay Kumar, the vice-president of the society, said nearly 40,000 girls are provided affordable education through the 18 educational institutions supported by the exhibition society. “Eighty-five percent of the revenue from Numaish goes into annual upkeep of these schools and colleges,” he said, adding that despite the prevailing pandemic traders and vendors are eager to participate in the upcoming exhibition. Over 1,100 applications for stalls have been received to date and organisers are flooded with phone calls regarding the status of the exhibition. “We are discussing crowd management concerns with the government authorities. In a week, we will have some clarity regarding the inauguration date and the duration of the exhibition,” he added.
An initiative by the Osmania Graduates Association to promote local artisans and craftsmen, the annual exhibition was stalled only twice in the last 80 years- in 1947 and 1948. Considering the popularity of the exhibition in the initial years when it was held at Public Gardens, the 7th Nizam of Hyderabad Mir Osman Ali Khan Bahadur had offered today’s exhibition grounds on a lease exclusively to conduct the annual fair. Traders from Kashmir, Punjab, UP, and Rajasthan, to Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka are regular here.
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