Little India counts price for peace

Little India counts price for peace
Taking the bus is no longer a chaotic affair, with yellow railings on the field near Tekka Lane - where the chartered buses pick up workers - channelling passengers into neat, snaking queues.

Six months after Little India exploded in a frenzy of rioting, a new kind of order has emerged - uncluttered roads.

With police patrolling the area more frequently, people are not parking by the side of the road to do their grab-and-go grocery shopping, and the shops are feeling it.

"Business has been very, very bad since the riots. Now that police officers are on patrol more often, people dare not park their cars along the road to quickly buy groceries. They are scared they will 'kena saman' (get a parking ticket)," said Mr Sng, who works at Jik Aik Vegetable Trading in Buffalo Road.

The nearest carpark to the row of grocery shops along that road is the one at Tekka Market, which is sometimes so crowded that drivers have to wait an hour to get a parking space.

Fewer than half of the shop's regular customers have been visiting since the riot, he said.

And along with the drop in sales, the shop's vegetables have been going to waste.

Another business that has been badly affected since the riot is provision shop Sri Vinayaga Traders.

"My customers are mostly foreign workers, and there has been a 40 to 45 per cent drop in sales because fewer are coming to Little India," said owner Ravi Katich.

He has thought of giving up his business. After all, the new recreation centres in the pipeline - complete with supermarkets - may make trips to Little India less of a necessity for workers.

It's the shops selling alcohol that claim to be the worst-hit.

After the riot involving about 400 workers in December, alcohol restrictions were placed on Little India.

Shops are not allowed to sell alcohol between 8pm and 6am on weekends, public holidays and the eve of public holidays - drinking in public is not allowed during these periods, but is still allowed indoors after 8pm.

At least two retailers have closed down, unable to keep afloat amid flagging sales.

Those which are still around are surviving, though business is barely 20 per cent of what it used to be.

"Why are there double standards? If the eateries can serve alcohol till midnight, we should be able to, as well. Those who drink should be the ones being monitored, not us," said Balan Kabilan, who runs Moonshine Enterprises in Chander Road.

He had asked about converting his store into an eatery, but was told he could not do so. The businesses may also be hemmed in by their lease agreement.

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