Bustle returns to Little India, but turnout still muted

Bustle returns to Little India, but turnout still muted
Foreign workers gathering at an open field along Kinta Road in Little India on 29 December 2013.

SINGAPORE - Little India's Sunday bustle returned on Sunday, three weeks after a violent riot broke out in the area.

Shopkeepers and foreign workers there said the turnout was bigger than the previous weekends, but still fell short of the crowds before the Dec 8 riot.

When The Straits Times visited the area in the late afternoon, most of the workers were gathered on open fields or along roads.

No one could be seen drinking alcohol in the open, given the ban on public consumption on weekends since the day after the riot.

Sales of both alcohol and other items such as clothes and telephone cards remained slow yesterday, shopkeepers told The Straits Times.

But they added that this was partly due to the usual end-ofthe- month slump, when workers had already spent most of their salaries.

Mobile phone shop employee Mr Vishan, 29, said: "Before the riot, there were queues outside, but today, I have had fewer than 10 customers."

A worker from India, 29-year-old Jayachandra Varatharjan, said it would take more time for the area to recover.

"I am just here to meet friends and buy things. Most of us are like that. Hopefully, things will return to normal soon," he said.

The riot was sparked by a traffic accident that killed a 33-yearold foreign worker from India.

The mayhem left 39 Home Team officers injured and 25 government vehicles damaged.

It is believed some in the crowd that night were under the influence of alcohol.

A total ban on the sale of alcohol in Little India on weekends was relaxed on Dec 18, allowing retailers to sell takeaway alcohol within restricted hours.

Sunday private bus services that ferry workers to Little India, which were suspended in the immediate wake of the riot, resumed on Dec 22, but at half the capacity.

This was increased by another 5 per cent yesterday, said the Land Transport Authority, following a review.

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