Galiff Street market, the Sunday destination for pet lovers and gardening enthusiasts in Kolkata, will remain shut for the next two weekends in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, a union member said.
Terming it unprecedented in more than five decades history of the 'Baghbazaar Sokher Haat', the market union's executive committee member Mrinal Das said they will shut shop on March 22 and March 29.
"We will review the situation and take a call in the meantime whether to make it business-as-usual from April 5," Das, a landscaping bonsai seller, told PTI.
"Around five years ago, due to Durga Puja the market was closed for a Sunday but such an uncertainty never plagued Galiff Street," he said.
The shutdown would result in a loss of more than Rs 1 crore for about 700 registered vendors, according to the market committee.
"Life is at stake now. The first and foremost priority is to save lives, so we had to take this tough call. We have informed all the vendors personally and put the notice in our WhatsApp group. Once normalcy resumes, Galiff Street will be back, thriving as usual," Das added.
On a usual Sunday, the one-of-its-kind market in north Kolkata sees a footfall of around 40,000-50,000 people, including tourists, said the septuagenarian who had seen it rise from Hatibagan before being shifted to Galiff Street in 1996 due to congestion.
"It's one of the major attractions of Kolkata where you get everything -- from a Mango tree to a Macaw. People literally step on each other in the 500-metre stretch right from the wee hours to the evening every Sunday," Das said.
Divided into two sections -- pets on the eastern flank and plants on the west -- the market gets open by 4.30 am when the wholesalers come and do brisk business. In less than three hours, it's swarmed with people looking for pets and plants, while hobbyists too sell their stocks.
The sellers come from faraway places, from Khardah to Bandel, selling ornamental fish, pet dogs, birds and plants.
The spring is mostly the blooming season for orchids and Bappa Mondal of Khardah said he will be incurring huge losses due to the coronavirus outbreak.
"It's the season for orchids with flowers in the bloom. The closure means that we won't be able to sell the much-nurtured plants and will have to wait for the next season. Hope the situation normalises soon," Mondal said, estimating a loss of more than Rs 1 lakh.
Habra-based pot-seller Madhu Paul echoed him.
"We are very dependent on the market. Sometimes a seller makes around Rs 50,000-60,000 a day. But the situation is getting dreadful," he said.
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