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Businesses At India’s Pilgrimage Puri Suffer As Covid Restrictions Hit Tourism

People involved in tourism-related businesses in Puri face a hard time.

PURI, India — People involved in tourism-related businesses in Puri, situated in the eastern Indian state of Odisha, are facing difficulties as the Covid-induced restrictions have hit their businesses hard.

Puri is an important pilgrimage center for Hindus. Located towards the south of Bhubaneshwar, capital of Odisha, Puri is one of the holy cities in India and one of the Dhams out of four, as per the Chaar (four) Dham Yatra of Hindus.

It is believed that one’s pilgrimage journey is incomplete without a visit to this place. This coastal district situated at the Bay of Bengal is known for its architectural magnificence and spiritual significance. This place is also famously referred to as Jagannath Puri.

However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the government of Odisha has laid down restrictions due to which tourism is experiencing a downfall.

The current confirmed Covid cases in Puri are 39,250, and the district is still struggling with the delta virus.

People involved in tourism-related businesses rued, tourists are not visiting Puri in the wake of the restrictions placed to arrest the spread of the infection.

Odisha Health Minister Naba Kisore Das recently wrote to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan to provide 600,000 additional vaccine doses immediately for the state. An average of 300,000 people has been vaccinated per day since June 21.

A conch shell seller from the coastal city, Jainarayan, said since no tourists are coming these days, people selling portraits of gods, conches, materials used in puja (worship) like mala (flower garland) are facing a hard time due to this.

“We are in trouble,” he said. “This is the time of the year when businesses happen. Unfortunately, no help has come our way from the state government.”

Underlining the loss borne by the hospitality sector, Raj Kishore Das, Secretary, Puri Hotel and Restaurant Association, said: “Tourists will not come to Puri until Jagannath temple is closed and businesses will continue to suffer. Over 800 hotels in Puri are closed. We have suffered a loss of around Rs 500 crores during the second wave of Covid.”

Another puja items seller, Ganesh Rao, complained that their sources of livelihood had been destroyed as they were dependent on the tourists for their sale.

“My family is in big trouble, we were dependent on tourists, but they are not coming these days,” Rao said.

“Earlier, I used to earn INR 2,000-3,000 ($26.9-$40.4) daily, but now we are making our ends meet by doing labor. But, unfortunately, the government is also not helping us.”

Odisha as a state is slowly and gradually recovering from the delta variant. Das has tweeted expressing his gratitude towards the healthcare workers.

“Latest update on Covid19 in the state of Odisha. The no. of active cases is slowing down. The efforts of healthcare workers are commendable. From our end, let’s follow social distancing & use masks to break the chain,” read the tweet.

(With inputs from ANI)

(Edited by Amrita Das and Pallavi Mehra)

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