By Mohammed Shafeeq
Hyderabad, Jan 2 (IANS) Hyderabads favourite trade fair is back after a gap of one year but the spike in Covid-19 cases and the threat of the new variant Omicron may dampen the spirits of visitors to the annual event, which has been an integral part of the citys culture for eight decades.
Last year, the city had missed the trade fair, popular among Hyderabadis as ‘Numaish’ due to the pandemic and this year the 81st edition of the event is starting at a time when the fear of a third wave has gripped the city.
Though the organizers have promised strict adherence to Covid-19 protocols and announced that they will follow a no-mask no-entry policy, ensuring social distancing may be a challenge for them.
The number of visitors may come down as many people are likely to skip the event to avoid the crowds and thus run the risk of contracting infection.
The All India Industrial Exhibition Society (AIIE), which organizes the annual event at Numaish Maidan at Nampally in the heart of the city, is not taking any chances.
The Society is taking steps like checking the vaccination status of the stall owners and daily sanitisation. Its teams will also patrol the venue to ensure conformity with Covid protocols.
“We are not issuing identity cards to stall owners till they produce their two-dose vaccine certificate,” said AIIE secretary Aditya Margam.
The society has also made arrangements to give a second dose to the stall owners who require it.
The organisers have appealed to the visitors that they visit Numaish only after getting fully vaccinated. Vaccine doses will also be made available at the venue for the unvaccinated visitors.
Cultural shows, which used to be an important part of the annual fair, will not be held this time in view of the Covid situation. AIEE officials said to prevent the gathering of a large number of visitors at one place, they decided not to have cultural programmes.
Unlike in the previous years when there used to be 2,200-2,500 stalls, the organisers this time have reduced the number to 1,600 to ensure space between stalls. This has also been done to widen the pathways for safety.
The society claimed that it has taken all safety measures to prevent fire accidents. A massive fire during the exhibition on January 30, 2019, had gutted over 100 stalls, leading to a huge property loss. The incident had led to a near stampede situation but luckily it did not result in any loss of life.
As the fire was caused by a short-circuit, the authorities this time have taken several safety measures including installation of a junction box for every 10 stalls. They have also arranged a 3-km pipeline with 81 fire hydrants that can spray water to a distance of 150 feet with a three lakh litre storage capacity.
The police issued a no-objection certificate to conduct the fair for 45 days after the Society obtained permissions from all other departments including the fire service.
This historic city rings in the new year with Numaish, which has not lost its charm despite the changing times, new lifestyles and mushrooming swanky shopping malls.
Last year, the Society initially postponed the exhibition to January 31. Though the Covid-19 situation was under control and the number of cases in Hyderabad had dropped, the Society took the decision as a measure of abundant caution.
As thousands of people throng the exhibition every day and the guidelines which were then in force did not permit gatherings of more than 200 people, the Society deferred the event. The Society was hopeful that ‘Numaish’ would begin in March-April but the second wave forced them to drop the plans.
Traders from various parts of the country set up their stalls during the exhibition, which is visited by around 45,000 people every day.
Every year ‘Numaish’ begins on January 1 and goes on till February 15. Over 20 lakh people had visited the exhibition in 2019.
A unique blend of economy and culture, the event is organised on the sprawling grounds and revenues from the fair are spent on a group of educational and charitable institutions run by the Society.
The exhibition draws people not just from the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad but from other parts of Telangana and even neighbouring states.
Numaish-e-Masnuaat-e-Mulki or in short numaish made a humble beginning in 1938 as an event to promote locally produced goods.
Beginning with just 50 stalls, it has evolved into one of the biggest industrial exhibitions in the country.
The seventh Nizam of Hyderabad State, Mir Osman Ali Khan, inaugurated the first ‘numaish’.
Enthused by the good response, it was decided to make it an annual event and use the earnings to promote education.
With each passing year, the event grew in size and popularity. Old-timers recall that it became a platform for artists to show their skills. Mushaira or literary activity, songs and qawwalis became a part of it.
With the changing times, the focus shifted to the commercial aspect. Traders from across India, besides local industries, entrepreneurs, hotels and food chains, set up stalls.
Various state and central government departments as well as public sector undertakings use the platform to reach out to people.
Numaish could not be organised in 1947 and 1948 due to the turmoil in the aftermath of India’s Independence. With Hyderabad acceding to the Indian Union, the event bounced back in 1949.
Renamed the All India Industrial Exhibition in 1949, it was inaugurated by the Governor General of India, C. Rajagopalachari.
By Mohammed Shafeeq