IN: The stench of post-COVID bad sales at the Varanasi flower market

Flower seller Bablu, who operates out of Purvanchal’s biggest flower market in Varanasi, was surprised when the seller who sits next to him left his garlands with Bablu and left for home. “Sell these garlands and keep whatever you get. I am tired of sitting here since morning and not selling a single garland,” he told me, Bablu narrated.

“Our business has collapsed to the point where we face starvation. We cannot even recover costs, forget making a profit. Other than Corona, rain has also hit our business. Drenched flowers don’t get sold,” Bablu said. The floral business has crashed across the country as a result of the pandemic. This is the second year in a row that demand for flowers was less during the wedding season (March-May). Added to this, places of worship have also remained closed.

Those who grow flowers and everyone else in the business of flowers are wondering how to make ends meet. In many cities, a significant number of people are associated with the flower trade. Their source of income has dwindled or disappeared overnight. And one city where this is very visible is Kashi, also known as Varanasi.

Sudama Devi, 46 years old, is a resident of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency. “No government is taking our situation seriously,” she complained. Flowers are decaying in large quantities at the Varanasi market due to lack of demand. They all find their way to the garbage bins.

From 280 to 40 quintals of flowers a day at Kashi Vishwanath temple
The volume of flowers used in the pre-pandemic era in the world-famous Kashi Vishwanath temple ran into more than 200 quintals. “The temple used to consume anywhere up to two hundred and eighty quintals of flowers a day. This has dropped to a mere forty quintals a day,” said Vishal Singh, secretary of the Varanasi Development Authority.

This reduction in business has affected laborers and gardeners who collect flowers from gardens and sell them to be converted into garlands. “The flower garland business is operating at approximately eighty percent loss due to the Corona crisis,” explained 32-year-old Lalu Rajbhar, who has been selling garlands and flowers for the past 10 years.

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