If 18 months ago, 38-year-old Manish Thorat was told a man from an unknown village in Pakistan would force him and his family of seven to survive on paltry rations, he may have laughed it away. Today, he knows better.
Thorat owns a 60-year-old fruit juice stall outside Arthur Road Jail, where Pakistani gunman Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab (22) was tried and is lodged. The prison and the area around it saw unprecedented security until Kasab’s conviction earlier this month.
The road adjoining it was a one-way since November 2008, and residents of the area needed identity cards to pass through. Those restrictions were partially lifted on Saturday.
The main road adjoining the jail was made two-way and the identity checks of residents were relaxed. A jubilant and emotional Thorat said: “My family and I were nearly finished. Today, business is 20 per cent better than what it’s been in the last 17 months.”
Kanti Gohil (35), a relieved resident of Shanti Nagar Colony near the jail said: “We’re finally having a marriage in our colony this week. Events were not allowed around the premises since Kasab was brought here.”
It’s not all good news. S S Rao (54), proprietor of Denticon Pvt Ltd, which makes medical equipment, has his office on the road adjoining the jail’s southern wall – which is still not open to traffic. “All this is an eyewash until they [police] remove these barricades,” he said. “Which doctor will come here if they have to park their cars a kilometre away?”
Praveen Shanbhag (52), manager of Vandana Hotel outside the jail, said: “It’s too early to say if business will improve”. The hotel suffered substantial losses almost to the point of closure because its customer base had dried up.
On an optimistic note, he added: “More relatives of both, the inmates at the jail, and patients at Kasturba Hospital, have started coming in today.”