8 fined for flouting safe management rules in Little India

Checks stepped up during Deepavali festive period; shoppers advised to stagger visits

Shoppers in Campbell Lane on Nov 1. There have been smaller crowds in Little India compared with during the festive period in previous years, but business appeared brisk at various shops over the past two weekends.
Shoppers in Campbell Lane on Nov 1. There have been smaller crowds in Little India compared with during the festive period in previous years, but business appeared brisk at various shops over the past two weekends.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Eight people were each issued with composition fines of $300 over the last two weekends for failing to comply with safe management measures while in Little India.

The authorities have been stepping up checks in the area in the peak periods leading up to Deepavali, which falls on Saturday.

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB), for one, has deployed more enforcement officers and safe distancing ambassadors to help with crowd management.

STB's director for arts and cultural precincts, Ms Serene Tan, said shoppers have also been advised to stagger visits and avoid peak periods, such as weekends, while shopping for Deepavali.

The Straits Times visited Little India over the past two weekends and found that while crowd sizes were smaller compared with during the festive period in previous years, business appeared brisk at the different shops.

Some stalls had also extended their footprint into the street to accommodate the shoppers.

Meanwhile, safe distancing ambassadors were seen patrolling the area to ensure that shoppers adhered to the required measures.

While the streets of Little India were set aglow last month during the Deepavali light-up ceremony, they are devoid of bazaars and festival villages this year.

Mr Rajkumar Chandra, president of the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association, said a small number of stalls belonging to existing shops have been allowed to set up at Campbell Lane. They have been reminded to sell their goods only within their premises and at permitted areas.

The association also set up an online portal on littleindia.com.sg, which went live on Oct 10, as well as its Facebook page for shops to sell festive goodies online.

"Those who have been vendors at bazaars have either given this year a miss or have resorted to online options. The online portal has helped many, but it cannot replace the experience of looking around and choosing items for themselves," added Mr Rajkumar.

Mr Iqbal Raja, who works at Bawa's Delicacy, a store selling traditional cookies, sweets and murukku, said that while overall sales have been slow, the store has been garnering more interest online since the outbreak of Covid-19.

"Some still order online from us but others prefer to taste the snacks before purchasing," said the 49-year-old.

The business, which has its main branch in Kerbau Road, has a temporary stall in Campbell Lane.

Over at Tekka Centre, Mr Vengatachalam Srinivasa, who occasionally helps out with his family's business, Vanni's Tailoring, said its revenue has fallen by around 20 per cent this year.

But the business, which offers custom-made Deepavali outfits, has been seeing more demand for alteration services, as those who purchased ready-made outfits online need to get them to fit, said the 36-year-old.

Mr Gopalkrishnan Ranganathan said he makes it a point to take his two boys to Little India at least once a year around Deepavali to experience the festive atmosphere.

The 50-year-old engineer said: "This year's ambience definitely isn't there, especially with much fewer stalls around. But when it comes to buying our Deepavali outfits, trying out the different foods, and getting ornaments and decorations, we'll still need to walk around and experience this first-hand."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2020, with the headline '8 fined for flouting safe management rules in Little India'. Print Edition | Subscribe