It was 165 days ago when S. Parthasarathy last covered his sewing machine with a loose cloth at his shop in Pudu Mandapam here and went for a night cap. What followed that fateful day was an enormous fire at the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple. The inferno charred portions of the Veeravasantha Rayar Mandapam on the eastern side and led to closure of the Pudu Mandapam to avoid future accidents.
On Tuesday, the hall was reopened and shopkeepers walked in with gleeful yet anxious smiles.
“The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on June 4 has given us time till December 31 to keep the shops open in Pudu Mandapam. However, over 300 traders here have no assurance on what will happen to us thereafter,” said G. Muthupandi, president of the Pudu Mandapam Traders and Tailors’ Association.
There are 154 tailoring shops, 34 utensil shops, 32 bookshops, 32 shops selling puja articles, 32 selling jewellery and trinkets and about 10 to 15 selling tailoring goods. “Only about 50 traders can survive outside of their daily jobs,” he said.
A senior official of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments department said that all shops that were to open in the coming days should submit an undertaking signed by a notary public that they would vacate the premises by December 31.
Without any alternative sites for the shops, the shopkeepers felt that they would be on the streets. Mr. Muthupandi said that in 2010 the traders signed a document for shifting to the nearby Kunnathur Chatram after the Madurai Corporation finished construction of a shopping facility.
“I asked my friends for work and did some odd jobs when the mandapam was shut. The family was put under extreme strain. We had difficulty paying bills and fees. If I go back to that phase in the next five months, I, like many others here, will be a walking ghost,” said Parthasarathy.
P. Madhavan, a textile shop owner, said that with a decline in sale of traditional goods, shopkeepers were finding it difficult to relocate. S. Abdul Kader, a utensil shop owner, hoped that there would be light at the end of the tunnel.
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