The wide gap between prices and income has narrowed the common man's Diwali celebrations to just one day. Only a day is left before Diwali but there is not much enthusiasm for festival shopping. Even on Sunday, most of the shopkeepers in Kotkapura town continued the wait for the season's rush. Decorated shops, sweets, crackers, and other Diwali items all failed to attract buyers.
Most people were busy with their daily routine, indifferent to the festival mood. Farmers sowed wheat and labourers went about the day's grind. "There are more things to buy this Diwali but the pocket has shrunk," said Harpreet Singh, a villager of Deviwala. "The price of apple has risen to Rs. 90 a kilogram from between Rs. 60 and 70 a few days ago. Bananas is Rs. 60 a dozen and common sweets in the range of Rs. 180 to 250 per kg."
The impact of dearness is clear. "My family exchanged nearly 50 gifts last year but bought only three or four presents this year," said Happy, a laboratory technician. "I have avoided giving gifts, seeing the price rise. The only small shopping and celebration now is on the Diwali day itself."
"The income of the common man has not risen as much as the expenses," said Balwinder Aulakh, president of the Lok Chetna Manch of Aulakh village. "Villagers in particular don't have enough sources of income. Children's education and medical expenses eats a hole in their pocket. Festivals items do attract them but they can't buy any. A few hours of modest celebrations is all they can afford."
"It is not that people have become aware of pollution and stopped bursting crackers," said Aulakh. "It's that crackers have become too costly. Only the income of big businessmen is unaffected."
"Most of the festival sale of sweets is only on two days, including Diwali, sometimes even just one day," said the owner of a prominent sweetshop in Kotkapura.
"It's only for the sake of tradition that we have to give and take sweets; otherwise one avoid buying the packs for the fear of adulteration," said Sukha, a man from Niamiwala village.
"Diwali enthusiasm once started from Dussehra and continued for many days," said Rajinder Jassal, a tailor. "The rising prices and busy lifestyle killed that spirit. Pehlanm wala cha hi nahi riha (The excitement is not like before). Fewer people now get new clothes stitched on Diwali."
"We have taken about 12 samples of sweets and sent them to test," said Dr Surinder Kumar, district health officer of Faridkot. "We are trying our best to check spurious sweets, for which we even had a meeting with the milkmen's union and confectioners."