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Shopkeepers in the doldrums derailed people

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Source of misery: The Metro project work on CMH Road has caused distress to both shopkeepers and residents alike.
Source of misery: The Metro project work on CMH Road has caused distress to both shopkeepers and residents alike.

Staff Reporter

Business nosedives after the start of Metro Rail work on CMH Road

BANGALORE: The initial outrage of shopkeepers and traders on the once bustling CMH Road has now petered out into extreme dejection. They no longer appear to have any fight left in them as they watch their business dwindle along with their self-esteem.

Time was when crowds whizzed past with shopping bags laden with anything from shoes to watches to electronic goods. Today, the view is mostly the gigantic columns and barricades of the mammoth infrastructure project of the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL), which seems to take its own time to progress.

Squeezed amongst the steel rods and shuttering are lives on the fringes, who are finding it hard to sustain their trade.

“I make a tenth of what I did before the Metro construction began. I’m finding it hard to keep my family comfortable, especially in the face of the economic slowdown,” says Imtiyaz Ahmed, president, CMH Road Traders’ Association, who owns a shoe shop.

He says that out of the 32 bank branches that were there on the road — an indication of the area’s one-time prosperity — more than half have closed. Ditto with restaurants. Crowded eateries like Megh Sagar and Susvad have had to close down. Smaller vendors have now flocked towards the 100-ft Road in search of better business.

With an average 60 per cent drop in sales, shopkeepers also cannot afford to hire too many employees. Mr. Ahmed had let go of more than half his staff as has V. Madhusudan, owner of Big Ben watch showroom.

“We need a minimum number of employees; we cannot let everyone go either,” he says, adding that while number of walk-ins to his store has declined drastically, “our expenses have remained the same”.

Watch the odd customer walk into any of these stores, and you will find salespersons making extra effort to sell their products, as customers are now a sought-after lot. “There is hardly any pavement left for pedestrians or parking space for the convenience of customers,” point out the shopkeepers, who say the Government should have at least allowed them a tax holiday.

“We were a source of value added tax and now that we are incurring losses, we should be given some relief.”

The infrastructure project has also affected the residents to a great extent. “There have been accidents on this road because of its condition. Ambulances have been known to get stuck here for more than an hour, and many streetlights are not functional,” says a resident who did not want to be named.

He says his first floor tenants vacated the place because of the inconvenience caused to them.

Everyone is bitter about the glacial speed of the project. “Its supervision seems to be nil,” the resident adds.

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