The iconic Lakshman Jhula at Rishikesh, built during colonial times, was shut for vehicles and pedestrians earlier this month and while the decision was taken due to safety concerns, it has massively hurt the local businesses around its vicinity.
The state administration had shut the 96-year-old bridge for people on July 15 as the PWD here said an IIT report had found it to be unsafe for people at large. There were protests but the state government under Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat had said that there can be no compromise with the safety of people. In the weeks since the bridge was shut, the area - once thronged by locals and tourists alike - has started wearing a desolate look.
Two major markets close to the bridge - Tapovan Bazaar and Lakshman Jhula Bazaar - have been the most severely affected with a massive decline in footfall. Some local traders here say that their sales have come down drastically and that those among them who had taken loans are now at a point where they won't be able to pay back banks. What is even more ironical is that despite a large number of Kanwariyas in Rishikesh, the business remains lukewarm for traders in close proximity to the shut bridge. In previous years, sales were always brisk when the Kanwariyas were around.
The situation is even grimmer for roadside sellers who used to camp with their goods on the bridge and on the pathways leading to and from it. Many of them depended on their earnings from each day to feed their families but are now forced to park themselves elsewhere.
It is reported that since the bridge was shut down, tourists, pilgrims, local traders and police personnel have been engaged in a tussle. Many tourists coming to Rishikesh are caught unaware of the attraction being shut and end up arguing with local cops deputed to ensure the bridge remains off-limits. Pilgrims too often make way towards the bridge, either out of habit or in the hopes of finding a way to use it.
The state administration, however, remains determined to ensure the safety of all and had already announced that the construction of an alternate bridge would begin soon.