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Anti-encroachment drive threatens to push Delhi’s Ravana makers out of business

Thousands of artisans selling effigies on Najafgarh Road in Delhi are living under fear of being targeted by SDMC. They claim their effigies and material are damaged during anti-encroachment drives conducted by the civic body.

delhi Updated: Sep 19, 2017 10:11 IST
Vibha Sharma
Vibha Sharma
Hindustan Times
Delhi news,SDMC,Anti-encroachment drive
A demolition drive was conducted near Tagore Garden metro station on September 18.(Burhaan Kinu/HT PHOTO)

For 50-year-old Khazan Singh and his family, this is the only time of the year when they are in business. The family sells effigies of demon king Ravana and his brothers to several Ramlilas organised across the city. They live on the pavement in Titarpur, an urban village in west Delhi (also known as the largest effigy market in Asia). Singh has been selling effigies here for over three decades now.

But, this year the Singh family is spending sleepless nights over the continuing encroachment drives by the municipal corporation, in which, they alleged, the effigies and material gets damaged. Singh is concerned that if he won’t be able to sell effigies, how would he be able to repay the loan of Rs 40,000 that he took for buying raw material to make effigies.

“I bought raw material worth thousands of rupees this year. But the agency confiscated it. I am left with nothing. What do I make and how I do I earn now?”, said Singh.

With the Dussehra festival just a fortnight away, thousands of artisans selling effigies on Najafgarh Road for generations are living under fear of being targeted by the civic body.

The place has been a hub for artisans, who start making effigies on the roadside a month before the festival. The effigies are sold in the price range of Rs 1,000 to Rs 50,000.

“We are into this profession for the past three decades but things were never so bad. The drive has taken the bread out of our mouth. We have invited artists from Moradabad in UP and Rajasthan to make effigies but due to this ongoing drive, we will not be able to bear their expenses for long,”said Sunny Kumar, 35, a second generation effigy maker at Titarpur.

Artisans in Titarpur make and sell effigies of demon king Ravana and his brothers every year. They claimed that the municipal officials damaged several effigies this year. (Burhaan Kinu/HT PHOTO)

“Our buyers have already reduced to half due to the stringent government norms . And this unexpected drive by South Delhi Municipal Corporation has further dampened our enthusiasm,” said Bijender Kumar, another effigy maker.

A senior SDMC official said, “We can’t do anything as the stretch (Najafgarh Road) is being monitored by the High Court and is among the 29 stretches that the Lieutenant Governor had ordered to make encroachment free.”

“Though we are carrying the anti-encroachment drive since June, these effigy makers came here few weeks ago. We found them encroaching upon pavement as well as roadsides. The department issued them warning to remove their stuff but those who failed to act faced action.”

On June 6, L-G ordered immediate crackdown on encroachments, such as parked vehicles, and penalising those contractors who were allowing such parking on 29 major roads.

But effigy makers alleged that the drive is only against poor people. “On both sides of road massive parking is done by shopkeepers and outsiders. But the officials didn’t fine a single vehicle because they fear of facing strong resistance,” said an artist on the condition of anonymity.

First Published: Sep 19, 2017 09:40 IST