Shailendra Badoni (35) roadside vendor shouts and tries to attract pilgrims at the congested Laltaro Bridge in Haridwar. These days he has almost no time to talk to his wife and children back home in Garhwal as he is busy selling rudraksh and religious accessories. Shailendra is one among the thousands who hope to reap benefits from the biggest human confluence - Kumbh that begins in Haridwar from Thursday and will last till April 28.
“This is the first time I have come Haridwar, otherwise I would earn Rs. 200-300 during summers in the revered shrine Badrinath” he avers adding “During Kumbh I expect to earn Rs. 700-800 per day” as his eyes hunt for buyers.
For the lakhs of devotees arriving here, taking dip in the Ganga during Kumbh is the way of getting salvation from sins. For the petty traders and roadside vendors to hoteliers, big and small, it is big business.
Radhey Shyam Joshi (52), owns a shop that sells items such as vermilion, Ganga jal jars and brass accessories. Joshi is a happy man these days as his shop, among 250 odd similar shops, is situated at a strategic location, next to Har Ki Pauri, in the heart of temple town. “Our business grows manifold during the important snans,” he says.
Interestingly, the market observers believe the overall business during the stretch of four months of Kumbh could touch anything between Rs. 150-200 crore.
“During the financial year 2004-2005 Haridwar alone contributed Rs. 200 crore revenue in the state coffers and that was the time when Ardh Kumbh held,” asserts Keshav Keshwani, president Haridwar Business Association.
Infact in the last couple of years Haridwar has witnessed boom in the real estate sector that resulted in expansion of hotel industry as well. The 270 odd hotels including small, budget and luxury hotels are packed with the guests. National and international media has arrived in large numbers.
The room tariffs of hotels are skyrocketing as the choice is limited for pilgrims.
“Usually December till April is a dull season for hotels but this year it is just opposite,” says Ashutosh Sharma, Convener, Haridwar Hotels Association. Kumbh will not just reap short time benefits but it will also have a long time benefit.