Has non payment of MGNREGS wages put a damper on Christmas shopping?

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By R. Lester Makang
UKHRUL, December 18: With less than a week to go for Christmas, hordes of shoppers here in Ukhrul town are rushing to get hold of their items of requirement for the festive season from the market. And while almost every shop in town appears cram full of swift shoppers who lose no time in making a purchase each day hinting a brisk season for the business community, traders here have a quite different story to tell.

When this reporter dropped round the town’s market for a casual survey on this, it came to light that the volime of business this time has plummeted to an unprecedented low for the supposedly glittering season.

Citing possible reasons for the unexpected drop in sales of goods this year despite most shops — both big and small alike — are apparently thronging with season shoppers, Gopal Bhandari, a cloth merchant, has this to say “We are expecting customers from villages but the non payment of MGNREGS wages might have constrained their purchasing power this time.”

He said that sales have fallen by almost 50% as compared to that of last year. “Last year we could manage to attain a daily turnover of  Rs. 15,000 at average but this time it has come down to just 6,000 to 7, 000.” he said.

But then Gopal quickly added that may be last year’s brisk trade was due to the season’s proximity to the State Assembly election which was due to be held then.

Another cloths seller Ramji has said that kids and ladies items sell better but business this time is not as good as the previous year. Sales has dropped by about 30 per cent, he added.

Meanwhile sharing the same sentiment, proprietor of Aran Flower Shop, Viewland has said that of all the decorative items in stock, Christmas Stars and flowers are the two best selling items during this season but even then  there has been a steep decline in daily turnover compared to last year.

“This time we are selling only 10-20 units of Christmas stars a day which cost in between Rs. 20 and Rs. 500 per piece. But this may be due to the selling of Christmas stars to all job card holders of every locality at a deduction of  Rs.100 from their wages by the local MGNREGS committees,” he added.

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