Chandraveer Singh Panwar, 34, returned from the Pushkar fair, which ended on Monday, with the two mares and a horse he had planned to sell at the annual cattle market. Panwar, who first saw his grandfather and then his father conduct business at the fair, said it was for the first time in three decades that a member of his family, livestock traders by profession, was leaving Ajmer empty-handed.
“Mela bikul hi bikhar gaya tha announcement ke baad (the fair fell apart after the demonetisation announcement),” said Panwar, a resident of Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh. “Let alone buy or sell cattle, we had to go hungry for a while as nobody accepted the old notes. I had planned on selling my mares and buying a better breed of the animals, but the fair was a flop,” he said.
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Jaipur resident Nikhil Sharma, 21, who had set up a heritage artefacts shop at the fair, said he catered to a mere 20 customers between November 8 and 14. “After the announcement, we managed to withdraw cash from ATMs but it wasn’t enough; we had to go to cafes where we could swipe our cards. Arranging meals was a problem,” said Sharma, who set up shop at Pushkar for the first time. “We usually have 5-6 lakh domestic tourists at the Pushkar fair but this year, the figure was close to 4 lakh people. But the number of foreign tourists rose from 11,000 to about 12,000,” said Ratan Lal Tunwal, Tourism Officer, Ajmer.
As per figures with the Animal Husbandry Department, of the 8,871 cattle that were brought to the fair, including camels, horses, bullocks, buffaloes and sheep, only 2,453 were sold.
While the focus is on the Pushkar fair due to the steep decline in footfalls, tourist places across the state too witnessed a dip. Krishna Kanta Sharma, superintendent at Jaipur’s Nahargarh Fort, said tourist arrivals at the monument were down to about 75 per cent of the expected crowd. “This Sunday, we had 2,281 tourists against the usual 3,000 in this season,” he said. Immediately after the scrapping of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, tourists numbers at Nahargarh Fort had nosedived to 901 on November 11, he added.
At the City Palace, Udaipur, spokesperson Rakesh Pandey said the daily tourist footfall had declined to about 1,800 from nearly 2,200 people. “We are not accepting the old currency but immediately after the announcement, we set up card reading terminals for national and international cards. Moreover, there are a few ATMs near the palace, which were a big help to tourists coming to visit us,” he said.
At the Amber Fort, however, superintendent Pankaj Dharendra said that footfalls have risen by 15 per cent as compared to last year. But on the morning of November 9, the tourists, both domestic and foreign, had to haggle with the staff over the latter not accepting Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes, rendered invalid the night before.
Similar hassles across the state had prompted the state Department of Archaeology and Museums to declare free entry to all of its nearly 30 tourist sites for November 9 and 10. “It sent a positive message to the tourists and they lined up to visit us,” Dharendra said.
Director of the Archaeology Department, Hridesh Kumar Sharma, said that between November 11 and November 14, they accepted old currency notes at all tourist spots under their wing. While the order, to accept old notes, was to have ended on November 14, it has now been extended for 10 days.
The extension came too late for families such as the Kohlis from Haryana who had to pay only with Rs 100 or Rs 50 currency notes on Tuesday. “We have come here to attend a wedding but also went sightseeing on Monday. However, the old currency was not accepted at Amber, Nahargarh or Jaigarh,” said Rahul Kohli, 34., who is here with wife Bhavna, four-year-old daughter Pratishtha, and father K C Kohli.
“We came by a taxi and the driver has now declined to accept old currency,” Kohli said.