By Muneeb Naqeeb
The deflated mood of customers, beaten by the gradual and sudden spike in the prices for necessary goods, forms the solemn buzz in the Valley’s marketplaces on the arrival of Eid-ul-Fitr this year (yet again).
About a week remains before the auspicious globally celebrated festival of Muslims, yet window shopping is still the order of the day in myriads of markets of Kashmir. Scores of customers in the Valley are unfortunately tightening their purse strings this year due to the exponential rise in costs of eatables, apparel, and the general increases in the cost of life induced by the inflation.
“Eid is around the corner, yet I only see 3-4 customers at max per day. Ever since 2019 my work has suffered a lot, and it only seems to be getting worse, due to the rising inflation in the market” says Sameer Ahmad, a local shopkeeper who sells Kid’s wear in the downtown area.
It is to be noted that in the Annual budget of 2022, the GST on fabric was raised to 12% from 5%, which some take as a cause of Inflation, especially as the country recuperates from the infamous covid lockdowns.
Salesmen working with the leading shops at the heart of Srinagar; Lal Chowk, confirm the dip in the sales. “Footfalls do increase as Eid approaches, however, business is more sluggish than it was last year.” said Asif Iqbal, a local salesman.
“Instabilities and Covid lockdowns have burnt a hole in our pocket, making ends meet is getting really difficult. I have to cut costs on bakery, confectionery and clothing this Eid” says Fayaz Ahmad, father of two.
“Forget about clothing and bakery the price on essential food items have skyrocketed, Rajma Daal that until last year was sold for 70 Rs/Kg (wholesale), is now at 100 Rs/Kg (wholesale). Similarly, Sugar has risen from Rs 3800 Per Qtl to Rs 4100 per Qtl in just a span of 4-5 months, and edible oil is in a league of its own, from 1600 Rs per 15 liter to 2900 Rs per 15 liter, the cost has almost doubled. The price of spices like Chili powder and turmeric powder have been affected just as much. Last year the cost of 1Kg chili powder was 285 Rs per Kg. This year ½ Kg of chili powder is sold at Rs 250, “ says Asrar Rashid, a local wholesaler.
“This Ramazan saw an exponential decrease in the sales of Dates, Basil seeds, and such other items,” confirms Farheen, a shopkeeper at kokar bazar, Lal chowk.
As Eid-ul-Fitr draws nigh, naturally the hustle and bustle intensifies, and shopkeepers decorate their establishments to attract customers, but due to the cruising costs of the food and clothing items, the sales on this Eid have been affected (a usual trend of late).
“The Holy month of Ramadan teaches us about Patience and Tawakul. Good times are ahead of us. This is a festival of happiness, and joy, and the radiance in the market is a symbol of that only,” says Sajad khan, a local shopkeeper who chooses to remain hopeful in such testing times.