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In the wee hours of May 9, the dreams and livelihoods of about 500-plus families were destroyed after Chowk Bazar, located in the heart of Tezpur, was burnt to ashes. There is never a good time for a market to burn down, but amid a global, raging pandemic and strict lockdown rules, the timing could not have been worse.

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Speaking with EastMojo, Lakkhan Saha, a local shop owner who owns a garment shop narrated his condition. “I never thought I would witness such a miserable incident in life. The day was a nightmare for all of us. My employees and I tried our best, but failed to save our belongings from my shop. Right now, I’m just helpless as this was the only source of earning for me and my family. Amid this pandemic, we just don’t know what to do as we are under a partial lockdown and we can’t step out to earn even a single penny.”

He said he had heard that Himanta Biswa Sarma, the Chief Minister of Assam, had announced a sum of Rs 25,000 for the shopkeepers. “We don’t have any idea when we would get some assistance from the government. We don’t have any idea about whether we are going to get our shop back or not. It’s true that some local-based NGOs are coming forward to provide certain essentials to us, but still, how long will we survive like this?” he asked. 

Another person who worked in a store catering to religious functions, said, “I have been working in the shop for the last ten years and became a part of my owner’s family. I cannot express my grief in words. I have a family to feed and an ailing father to take care of. I’m absolutely clueless about how I will survive this situation.” He has also urged the District administration to create a temporary space so that they can resume their work as soon as possible.

The heroes in the time of grief:

Amidst the pandemic and lockdown, the enthusiastic and generous Youths of Tezpur in association with a local NGO, UnCivilized Indian (UCI) came forward to provide relief kits and essentials to the affected families.

A young entrepreneur from Tezpur, Spandan Dutta, spoke with EastMojo regarding his team’s contribution. He said, “Actually, we have a youth club in Tezpur, and after the incident, we began providing rations and essential food materials to the affected families in association with an NGO. Following every COVID-19 protocol, we are still helping several workers by providing essential stuff. Also, there were certain families who were experiencing mental trauma and it was quite dreadful to see them in such a situation.” He has also shared that they have plans to support them financially in the days to come.

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Rahul Pandey, founder of UnCivilized Indian, said, “With the motive to restore the heritage of Tezpur and some hope in humanity, a youth group started a campaign in no time by the name ‘ Chowk Bazaar Come Back.’ We started a fundraiser campaign online in order to provide the victims with essential and ration kits. Today being the 11th day of the first phase of the relief work, we have provided relief kits and essentials including daily ration items to around 450 families. We intend to help the grieving families in whichever way possible.”

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“There were also COVID-19 affected families who got the necessary help. Essential kits and food were provided. Few families were in need of blood, hence blood donations were initiated from our end. More relief kits will be provided to the needy families in the second phase including medical help if needed,” he added.

Also read: International Tea Day: What makes Assam tea so special?

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