Covid-19: Dilli Haat reopens, but customers stay away
The Delhi tourism department had on Friday announced that all three centres of Dilli Haat, Nature Bazaar, The Garden of Five Senses, Azad Hind Gram and GTB Memorial would open from July 4 and that no entry fee would be charged for the first 15 days.Updated: Jul 05, 2020, 06:02 IST
A bustling tourist hub till it shut as part of the government’s bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease, the Dilli Haat in INA reopened after more than three months on Saturday to barely any visitors. In fact, few stores were open either, with several shopkeepers and owners still away.
Save for the government-run handicrafts ‘Tribes of India’ shops, no stores or food stalls at Dilli Haat were open on Saturday. Some of the owners, who had come, left within hours. HT spotted one or two visitors, but they too left when they saw all the eateries shut.
Chui Shangs, who runs a Manipur handicrafts store, was leaving around 3pm. “I did some cleaning, but there were no customers since morning, so I shut the store for the day,” she said.
At the eateries, most owners said their employees had returned to their home states — Mizoram, Nagaland, Bihar among others. “I received an SMS around 5pm on Friday to open the store from Saturday. It will take at least 15-20 days to clean up and procure stock. Besides, most of my staff have not returned to Delhi. it will take them close to a week to arrange for travel and come to work,” said a food stall owner, who asked not to be named.
A group of stall owners said they had met the manager of the Dilli Haat on Saturday morning to raise their concerns related to the rent. “We have been told to pay rent from July 4. But there are no customers. How can they charge us rent while we have almost no business? We have requested them to consider charging only 50% rent or allow us to open fully from August, by when we can set up the logistics,” he said.
Tenants were exempt rents for April, May and June, they said.
The monthly rents of the stalls vary from ₹ 50,000- ₹70,000.
The ticket counters were closed, with entry made free to encourage visitors.
The government-run shops offered 40% discount on all items. “Earlier the discount was only applicable on select items. Now, it has been given on all items to encourage customers. We have had not a single customer so far,” said an employee at the Tribes of India store in the afternoon.
Nidhi Bharadwaj, who works in Hauz Khas, had come to the Haat along with her colleague in the afternoon. “We thought we would eat something nice, as this was one of our usual hangout places near the workplace. But nothing was open,” Bharadwaj said.
Some of the artisans, who sit outside the stores at the Haat, came in on Saturday as well. Surendra Kumar Ram, who sells Jharkhand fabrics, said he found out the shop was opening only in the morning through the newspapers.
Ratan Singh, chief manager, Dilli Haat, said, “All government-run stores are open. We have informed all artisans all over the country to start coming in. At least those in Delhi and nearby areas can start coming. The footfall will pick up in some days. We had to start somewhere. We did not ask for rents for April, May and June, but now we expect them to open, and that business will pick up. The owners’ demands regarding reducing the rent for some time is under consideration.”
The Garden of Five Senses in south Delhi, which was among the five tourist spots that opened on Saturday fared better.
“Around 40-50 people have dropped in since morning. Only the garden area is open, while the amphitheatre and the canteen are closed. People are asked to sit at least a metre away from one another and wear masks at all times,” said the security supervisor of the garden.
Anas Abdullah, an MBA student from Madangir had come along with his friend. “I saw online that the place has been opened and decided to come out. So far weekends were just about being home. I just wanted to take a break from staying at home,” he said.
The Delhi tourism department had on Friday announced that all three centres of Dilli Haat, Nature Bazaar, The Garden of Five Senses, Azad Hind Gram and GTB Memorial would open from July 4 and that no entry fee would be charged for the first 15 days.