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No buyers, huge losses: COVID turns Eid insipid for goat sellers

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No buyers, huge losses: COVID turns Eid insipid for goat sellers
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New Delhi:  Shakeel Khan came from Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, around two weeks ago to sell his employer's goats at Delhi's famous caprine market near Jama Masjid. A week away from Eid al-Adha or Bakri Eid, he has not been able to find any buyers.

With a little money left on him, the 22-year-old spends his nights outside closed shops on Urdu Bazar Road near the famous mosque.

"Had I been able to sell some of my goats and earn something, I would have found a shelter nearby," he says.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has hit businesses and people who could afford four goats till last year do not have enough money to buy even one this Eid, says a buyer who approached Khan but could not seal the deal.

Khan's employer had fixed the price of a pair of goats, each weighing around 40 kg, at Rs 30,000. "The price is reasonable," he says.

"Last year, I sold eight goats for Rs 1.6 lakh -- Rs 20,000 a goat. This year, no buyer has offered more than Rs 10,000 a goat so far," says Khan, who has been a regular to the caprine market for five years.

Safeena, 53, and her daughter-in-law have come from Filmistan area in Old Delhi to buy a goat for the festival on July 31.

"We buy a goat every year. This year, our shop remained shut for most of the period," she says. "These are tough times. We had saved some money for the festival but we cannot afford to splurge." Fariya, the daughter-in-law, says they bought a goat for Rs 15,000 last year.

"This year, we have got only Rs 10,000. It has been hard to find a nice goat in this price range," she says, resting for a while on a bench outside a cloth shop in the market.

Zaid Malik, the cloth shop owner, says the administration did not give permission for selling of goats this year for fear of coronavirus.

"Compared to previous years, there is nothing in the market this time. It would bustle with activity and you won't find any empty space. Now, you can count the number of people on your fingers," he says.

In normal times, Mohammad Izhaar would have sold around 15-20 goats on the festival of sacrifice. This year, he has sold only a pair, that too at a loss.

"We have scaled down our prices. Our asking price was Rs 18,000, we got Rs 15,500," he says.

In a world without coronavirus, the pair would have fetched Rs 30,000-35,000, according to Izhaar.

"It takes around 18 months to prepare a goat. A lot goes into its upkeep. We spend around Rs 10,000 on food, which includes gram, wheat, maize, barley, per goat a year," Izhaar, a resident of Azadpur, says.

The goats are kept in a 1,300-square-foot plot his father has rented for Rs 7,000 a month.

Aslam Khan, 13, comes to the market around 10 am and leaves at 8 pm. But in over a week, he has not been able to find a buyer for any of his four goats.

"My brother drops me here every morning and he himself goes to the Jafrabad market to sell goats. I don't have a place to sit, so I keep standing the whole time," he says.

"Only a few buyers have approached us so far. They, too, offered a very low price. If we are not able to sell them this year, we will keep them for next time," Khan says.

Mohammad Zahid, from Uttar Pradesh's Amroha, says he had brought five goats and have sold three of them at a loss of around Rs 18,000.

"I had no option but to sell them at a loss. The transport cost is so high given the circumstances. Tempo drivers have been asking for Rs 500-700 per goat. Also, police have to be taken care of," he says.

Business is lean and fuel prices have increased. Everyone is fighting for survival. The virus has already killed us all, Pawan Kumar, a tempo owner, says.

"This is the worst I have seen. People from Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and other states come here to sell goats. They would rent a place and stay in the city for a month at least. Only a few people have come from outside this year, due to strict restrictions in place," he says.

Shahbuddin Khan, a hardware shop owner, says an arrangement could have been made to avoid losses, but the government is unwilling.

"The municipal corporation could have used the grounds nearby to set up stalls for goat sellers, adhering to social distancing norms," he says. "Based on a token system, there could have different slots for sellers to avoid overcrowding," he says.

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