The spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 and the subsequent restrictions imposed by the state government have affected the kite business ahead of Makar Sankranti in Jaipur this year.
The impact on sales due to the pandemic and the restrictions so far is roughly 30-40 per cent, they said. “The spirit of people is not dampened but the fear of COVID-19 and government restrictions have certainly hit the kite business this year,” Usman Khan, a kite seller in Handipura, told local media.
Handipura and Haldiyon ka Rasta are the two major kite markets in the state capital. “Every year, hundreds of customers used to visit us on a daily basis ahead of Makar Sankranti. But, this year, the number is quite low,” Khan said even as he expected the sales to boost on Thursday, a day before the festival.
Handipura has nearly 200 regular shops and several makeshift stalls selling kites, 'manjha', 'charkhi' (string reel) and sky lanterns. Some of the traders from Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, too, visit Handipura every year for business. Kites and 'manjhas' prepared in Bareilly are popular for their quality and finish.
Usually, sales start picking up a week before the festival and it remains at a peak on January 12-13. However, the situation this year is different. “Normally, we finish almost the entire stock by January 14, but this year it seems that we will be left with a considerable stock,” Khan said.
Abdul Gafur, who has been manufacturing human-size kites with faces of politicians and celebrities for four decades, said that the footfall in the market this year is low. “Usually, the market remains open till late hours. This year, we are required to wind up the day at 8 pm due to the government's guidelines,” he said.
As per an estimate, approximately 2,000 people, including women and children, are engaged in kite-making in Handipura. For various reasons, the prices of kites and manjhas have also shot up. While regular kites are available for Rs 2-10, manjha costs Rs 300 to Rs 800 per charkhi (six reels). “Kite flying remains a favourite activity among children even in the digital era, but circumstances have affected our business,” Kayyum, a kite seller, said.
Meanwhile, Jaipur collector Antar Singh Nehra on Wednesday issued orders banning kite flying from 6 am to 8 am and from 5 pm to 7 pm till January 31. “Kite flying has been banned for two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening in view of the safety of birds. Birds fly mostly during these four hours and chances of their injuries are high due to the kite strings,” he told PTI.
Nehra also said that Chinese manjha (generally plastic strings), which have the potential to cause serious injuries to humans and birds, has been banned. He has also asked veterinary officers to remain vigilant and coordinate with NGOs and helplines to ensure that the injured birds are rescued as soon as possible.
The Jaipur power discom has advised people to keep a sufficient distance from the power lines while flying kites. Naveen Arora, managing director of Jaipur discom, cautioned against using kites made of aluminium foil and metal powder-coated manjha as they act as electrical conductors.
With inputs from PTI.