Haunted Qutub, Lotus Temple with near-zero footfalls

Government’s aggressive social distancing pitch coupled with Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) shutting all its protected sites from Tuesday has left Delhi’s two iconic structures — the Qutub Minor and Lotus Temple desolate, giving an eerie feeling.

Qutub being an ASI protected site — the only sight that greets you is a closed reception, few private security guards and an indifferent snack shop outside.

“I have just opened it,” said Ram Lal, who sells puffs outside the Qutub Minar. “This time of the year, it used to be peak season as its neither too hot nor cold. But corona has left us without business this year,” he adds.

A government employee present at the closed Qutub reception told IANS requesting anonymity, “Still we find 10 to 15 people turning up here unaware of the restrictions. Last year, mid-March, we had a tough time managing crowds. Such is the irony.”

To put things into perspective, in 2018-19, there were 2.9 million tourists who visited Qutub Minar. The data was shared by the Culture Ministry in Parliament.

Ironically at one corner, “stand in queue” bird stands alone amid the deserted premise of the 14th century victory tower built Sultans Qutb-ud-din Aibak and his son-in-law Iltutmish.

Though, the situation in Lotus Temple in South Delhi is not as haunting as the Qutub’s, but the footfall has decreased by approximately 90 per cent, say the shops outside the structure, whose business too have taken a hit.

When IANS visited the temple, barely a hundred people were scattered around the vast expanse of the temple premise. The main temple area was closed.

Subhashish, who started working for the administration of the Lotus Temple barely a month ago told IANS: “I have seen long queues that would run into a few hundred meters. Today there is no queue in the first place. This is unprecedented.”

He added the footfall drastically dropped after this Sunday, around the same time when COVID-19 cases inched closer to 100 in India and touched 7,000 world wide.

“Corona ka saya hai (It’s the shadow of Corona),” said Bablu, who sells banta-soda outside Delhi’s iconic structure that has often come to be synonymous with the national capital. He complained, “Dhanda band para hula hai (There’s no business).”

Fakhruddin Ali, a tourist from Kanpur, who had earlier visited the site sounded surprised. Said he could never imagine such an empty Lotus temple, ever.

This eerie feeling is the result of the government aggressively pitching for social distancing and avoidance of public places to contain the spread of the deadly Coronavirus and bring down the graph that has so far killed two in the country, including an elderly mother from West Delhi and paralyzed all major institutions like schools, gyms, movie theatres, swimming pools.

India may not have reached China’s Wuhan-like shutdown, but the semi-haunted tourist spots of Delhi only speak volumes about how badly the capital has come under the corona-grip.