Hyderabad: Ramiz L from Kashmir was trying hard to sell dry fruits outside Numaish to earn enough money to meet his travel expenses.

Usually, each kilo of walnut is priced at Rs 1000. However, Ramiz was ready to sell it for half the price just to clear the stock. "We sold a few items at half the rate. There's not much profit. We want to clear our stocks and rush back home," he said.

Ramiz had set up 'Dara' along with other Kashmiris at Numaish to sell dry fruit and handicrafts. However, they were in for a shock when the authorities decided to shut down the All India Industrial Exhibition (AIIE), popularly known as Numaish, owing to a spike in Covid-19 cases.

Farooq, another vendor from Kashmir said he suffered a loss of over Rs 1 lakh. "I even took a house on rent. The rent per month is 12,000 and I paid two months in advance. Now I don't know if the owner will return the money," he said.

Farooq said no financial assistance has been provided to the stall owners so far. "Right now, I couldn't even book a ticket to go back home. If I leave immediately, maybe the owner might not return the advance I paid. I will leave after a few days," he said.

While several vendors seemed to rent houses, some had stayed in hotels and lodges. A few like Mohammad Saif from Lucknow slept at the temporary stalls set up inside the exhibition premises to save money.

"There were almost little to no sales on January 1. I suffered a loss of 3 - 3.5. If the cases keep increasing and a third lockdown is imposed, we won't have any sales or alternate work. The losses incurred due to closing down Numaish are something we vendors and salesmen have to bear on our own. No one will help us," Saif said.

Wasir Khan from Lucknow, who set up the 'Karunanidhi Chikankari Art' stall, said one has to pay Rs 50,000 to set up a stall at Numaish. "We did the paperwork to get the amount back, but no one knows when we will receive it," he added.

P Rajesh, a vendor from Jharkhand suffered a loss of Rs 6-7 lakh. "There was some doubt regarding the exhibition as cases were already on the rise before Numaish even began. But we were called anyway. Despite knowing the current scenario, vendors like me came from different parts of the country to make money. But now we're all facing losses," Rajesh said

Rajesh was staying in a hotel and it cost him Rs 10,000. Rajesh also said he had to take Rs 1 lakh loan for Numaish. "I am not sure how I can repay it," he said.

With mounting debt, Rajesh walked out of Numaish with his belongings to catch a train back home. "What if there is a lockdown. I don't want to be stuck here," he said.

Amrutha Kosuru

Amrutha Kosuru is a Senior Reporter at NewsMeter. She is from Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a Bachelor's Degree in Physical Science and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Print Journalism from the Asian College of Journalism. She previously worked with The New Indian Express. She was also a contributor to the People's Archive of Rural India (PARI). Amrutha is a long-form literary reportage enthusiast and truly believes in the power of written-word storytelling. She strongly supports the LGBTQIA+ community and is a lover of everything antique and vintage. She hopes to own a well-functioning typewriter someday.

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