A week after the December 8 riot, common concern among shops and restaurants owners in the district is that it will take at least a month or two before business return to normal in Little India
If claims are to be believed, a small, not more than 4 by 6 feet wide, shop on Chander Road, selling cellphones and related products, lost S$3,000 yesterday. A liquor shop adjacent to it, around S$10,000. A canteen, Tamil Nadu Special, just across the road around S$18,000. In all, businesses in the Little India district affected by the alcohol ban, which is around 374 establishments, lost more than S$1.3 million this weekend.
While there's no way to cross-check what businesses are claiming, as figures may vary and may be over- or under-estimated, one thing is certain. Things will not be normal in Little India any time soon.
Malik, who runs a establishment at Chander Road and has been in Singapore for the last two years, said, “Ban or no ban, it doesn't matter. Foreign workers were, in any case, not going to come to Little India this weekend. Their bosses were advising them against that and there were no bus ferry services running. What really concerns us are the next few weeks. Foreign workers are here to earn money and support their families back home. They don't want any trouble. So unless, things return to normal and these workers feel confident to venture out again, I don't see them patronising Little India soon.”
“All of us in Little India are bracing ourselves for at least one or two months of lukewarm business.”
Another owner - of Sri Deepsikaa Stores at Race Course Road – added, “It's a drop of over 90% in my sales today. We don't earn much on weekdays any ways. Weekends are our main avenue for any kind of revenue generation. But, see, I am opening my shop only at 4pm on a Sunday. There are absolutely no customers. And it might remain so for at least a month, I am afraid.”
A clear divide
Meanwhile, restaurant owners at Race Course Road and the nearby Serangoon Road also witnessed a drop of at least 30 percent in their customers. “But that's mainly because of the alcohol ban. Once the ban is lifted, we expect our sales to return to normal. Our main patrons are Singaporeans and middle-income expats from the Indian sub-continent. Foreign workers don't come to establishments like ours. It's pricey for them. They go mainly to food courts and canteens spread across Little India,” said one restaurant-owner at Race Course Road who declined to be named.
Such food courts and canteens, who served cheap food and drinks to Indian and Bangladeshi migrant workers, reported a drop of over 70-80 percent in sales this weekend. “We are also worried about our future as we pay a monthly rent of S$22,000 and employ 15 people,” said one canteen manager.
Even though the ban on alcohol and other measures taken in the aftermath of last Sunday riot have divided opinions in Little India, there seems to be general consensus that the district needs better policing.
AKM Mohsin, editor of Banglar Kantha, a Bengali newspaper for migrant workers from Bangladesh distributed in Singapore and Malaysia, said, “Brawls under the influence of alcohol, and thefts have become common in Little India in the recent past. Just last month, I published a story in my newspaper on how few Bangladeshi workers lost all their savings when some miscreants stole and ran away with the money. A huge crowd gathered at that time also, a picture of which I published along with my story.”
“So better policing is a welcome change,” he added echoing the general sentiment across Little India.