Pashupati Area Development Trust’s new building for shops remains unusedThe Trust constructed a complex in Bankali in 2016 spending over 250 million to house over five dozen shops.
As pilgrims visiting the Pashupatinath temple early morning pass through the Bankali area, shopkeepers selling flowers, souvenirs and offerings for the temple descend on them. They forcefully try to sell their wares to pilgrims, especially if they have come to the holy site empty-handed. While some pilgrims buy from the shopkeepers, others who see them as nuisance, shoo them away.
To address this very problem, Pashupati Area Development Trust in 2016 constructed a complex in Bankali to house over five dozen shops. But instead of selling their products from the shops, the shopkeepers, who operate from shacks rented out by the trust, continue to create hassles for pilgrims.
“The trust has already built a building for shops. But these sellers continue to pester pilgrims,” said Dipti Adhikari, a resident from Purano Baneshwor, one of the pilgrims heading to the temple on a recent morning.
“Every time I come to Pashupati through Bankali, I see visitors face so much nagging,” Adhikari told the Post. “The sellers force their goods on to the visitors,” added the 37-year-old.
Pashupatinath, considered one of the holies of Hindu temples, reopened in December after remaining closed for nine months due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Over 20,000 visitors visit the temple every day according to the trust.
Construction of the complex for shops was completed during the tenure of former member-secretary Govinda Tandon in 2016. A year later, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation appointed Pradeep Dhakal as member-secretary of the trust. It’s been over three years since he took charge, but Dhakal has been unable to relocate the shops.
“We tried to relocate them, but there are only 64 shops available for over 200 sellers,” said Dhakal. He said the trust is trying to convince the shop owners and find another alternative for them.
When the Post visited the shop complex, all the shops were closed, and beggars and sadhus were sleeping in front of it.
“We are ready to go if the trust gives us alternatives,” said Nanu Basnet, 42, who has been selling flowers in the area for three generations. “I also don’t want to create hassles for customers,” she added, admitting that pilgrims are sometimes forced to buy offerings.
“I have been to the police station four times, because I was attacked by another shop owner. Here only those that can fight can sell their souvenirs or flowers,” said Basnet. She said she needs to pay Rs 8,000 to the trust every month for a small shack that she uses as a shop.
Sahadev Basnet, 64, another flower shop owner, however, said he is not willing to shift to the new place. “This is our family business for generations and the only source of income. If we relocate, our business will suffer,” said Basnet.
He said that only authentic shopkeepers who have been in the business for a long time should be allowed to run shops in the area. “We are the real traders of flowers, the government demolished our house because it was on the premises of Pashupatinath, and it gave us this place to run a shop,” said Basnet. “But now new people have shown up,” said Basnet.
Tandon, former member-secretary at the trust, said it was a misfortune that the new building hadn’t been used. “If the shops were relocated, the place would have looked better and visitors would not have to bear with the problem,” said Tandon. He said over 250 million was spent to construct the new building, but in vain.