MUMBAI: The flower sellers of Matunga who have plied their trade since 40-50 years are witnessing a record downturn in business owing to the prolonged Covid-19 lockdown. Since March 25, temples have been closed and festivals muted, and now with the upcoming Ganeshotsav under a cloud, the 500 families who subsist on this trade are in peril. All are natives of Tamil Nadu.
Matunga flower shops are second only to Dadar wholesale flower market, said local resident KA Viswanathan who has taken stock of this trade.
The lockdown relaxation by the state government that allows shops to open on alternate days will not help them either. P Subbiah, president of the 50-member strong Matunga Flower Merchants Association, said, “There are 40-50 shops and nearly 500 families are dependent on this business. Flowers have to be transported from Vasai- Virar and also from Tamil Nadu either by rail or road. Unless trains and private tempos are allowed to restart, we will continue to starve. Merely keeping shops open without stocking any flowers serves no purpose.”
The Madras malli and Bangalore malli flowers come from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka respectively, while rajamalli, mogra, champa, chameli and marigold, are sourced from Vasai-Virar. Rail transportation is yet to restart while road transportation remains erratic.
Sixty-eight-year-old N Ramakrishnan, vice president of the association, had come to Mumbai from Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu five decades ago and started selling flowers. “I have never come across such a situation as this. Although business was dull owing to heavy rains over the last few years, we were able to survive,” he said.
“Recovery will be slow. Ganeshotsav mandals like GSB Wadala have postponed celebrations to Maghi Ganesh in February 2021. Other mandals have muted the festival that begins August 22. Gokulashtami, Navratri (October 17), Dassera, Diwali and Onam may also not be celebrated as before,” Viswanathan said.
Meanwhile home rentals, shop licence fees and electricity bills must be paid although income has dropped to zero. Association secretary S Arumugam, who runs Ayyappa Flower Shop, said each shop was losing Rs 20,000 per day. “Police and BMC ask us why we want to open our shops when all the nearby temples are closed,” he said.
“Moreover, banks do not grant us loans as we do not have any security to give. Ours is a day-to-day business. We pay money to buy flowers from Dadar market,” Subbiah said. Arumugam sought Mudra loans for his tribe and appealed to BMC to waive the licence fee.
Ramakrishnan and Subbiah said, “We do not know any other work except the flower business. If shops are not allowed to function with steady supplies, our lives are doomed. We are ready to follow social distancing norms but please allow us to function.”



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