More foreign workers back in Little India

BUOYED by payday in the first week of the month, many foreign workers made their way to Little India yesterday to eat, shop and remit money home.

Snaking queues were seen at ATMs when The Straits Times visited in the evening, while some businesses cautiously reported increased takings compared with last Sunday - though still nowhere near the levels before the Dec 8 riot.

But shopkeepers selling alcohol said sales remained slow after police banned the consumption of alcohol in public places in Little India on weekends, public holidays and their eve, following the riot.

Serangoon Road SIM card stall owner Kelvin Chia, 46, saw sales go up by 40 per cent. But he was sceptical that the recovery would last. "It's mostly because of workers' salaries coming in," he said.

Mr Subramanian, 33, a cashier at a diner along Campbell Lane, said business was "slightly better" but that many workers were still staying put in dormitories on their weekly day off.

Workers agreed. Mr Ram Kumar, 34, from India, said: "They stay there to watch movies, and there are also new shops."

His colleague Mohan Ramu, 48, added that even those who visit Little India now tend to stay for "just one, two hours" to meet friends and buy groceries, which are cheaper there. They then return to their dormitories because they "don't want trouble".

Previously they would stay for up to five or six hours, he said.

A 24-year-old worker from India, who wanted to be known only as Mr Saravanan, said he had received his salary this week and was there to "makan (eat) a bit, send money home, then go back (to the dormitory)".

Private bus services that ferry workers to and from Little India resumed on Dec 22 at half the capacity and were upped by 5 per cent last Sunday.

Last month's riot, which injured scores of Home Team officers and destroyed government vehicles, was triggered by a fatal traffic accident involving a 33-year-old Indian worker.