M A I N   N E W S

Polls, disease push back Puskhar
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Pushkar, November 14
Elections, global meltdown, fear of terrorist attacks and Jodhpur Chamunda Devi temple stampede have dealt a severe blow to the international Pushkar festival here known for its religious significance in form of a holy dip in the world’s only Brahma Temple, and massive sale and purchase of live stock.

Very low tourist numbers have led to decline in business by as much as 60 per cent in business.

The coming assembly elections is also being seen as a major deterrent with locals busy in canvassing and tourists keeping away from the state to avoid the election din.

“Political parties have hired in advance most of the tour parties, who would have otherwise been free to woo tourists and arrange tours of locals,’’ Mohan, a guide at Pushkar told The Tribune.

The sale and purchase of livestock including camels, horses and cattle was no better. Spread of influenza among animals forced owners to leave for fear of infection. Many animal-owners were also not happy with the an animal fair in Kolayat near Bikaner which clashed with Pushkar dates. “Almost half of the persons who have been traditionally coming here from Bikaner, Ganganagar went to Bikaner. “The government should not have allowed two festivals at the same time,” Oma Ram of Chittaur, who has been able to sell just one of the five camels he had brought here, said.

“Feeka hai, manda hai” (the fare is dull and business bad) was the common refrain at stalls, among animal owners and guest house staff here.

Baldev Singh Bhishnoi of Gumjal village, near Abohar in Punjab, was disappointed, “I could sell only one horse. It fetched me Rs 1.50 lakh, the highest any animal got at the fair. But I am unable to sell any of the five other horses, mares and calves I brought.”

Naresh Godara of Sirsa in Haryana, who uses a laptop for business deals, said he had been a regular visitor to the fair for 20 years, “But, never did I feel so disappointed. There are no sales. Buyers are scared of disease.”

Mariat from Norway, also a regular, is equally unhappy. “There was no hustle and bustle this time. The vibrant festival mood was missing. There was no crowd.”

Priests and prasad sellers are feeling no better. “There has been a great decline in number of religious tourists. The prasad sale has gone below by 70 per cent.”

For the record, the highest bid for a horse was Rs 1.50 lakh and Rs 60,000 for a camel. Officials figures put the number of camel a little less than 10,000 this year — 20 per cent less than 2007.



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