By Neeraj Nanda
MELBOURNE, 1 December 2020: In a move that is likely to render more than 25 businesses inoperative and about 60 staff without work, the Victorian government has written to Little India stakeholders to get ready for shutting shop in the next two years as a developer has been selected to redevelop the area’s five sites.
A couple of weeks back shopkeepers received a letter stating the information about the possible demise of their businesses. Some years back when Ted Ballieu was the Premier the issue of Little India was himself raised by the current Premier Daniel Andrews visiting the only Indian Pricient in Victoria to express solidarity with traders. Later a rally was held by traders outside the Victorian Parliament to save the shopping complex.
The complex this year already reeling under a massive downturn because of the COVID-19 pandemic, could not recover during the recent festival season as sales did not pick up. The news of its imminent demise is nothing but a shocker, traders say.
The shopping complex has many iconic shops selling ethnic Indian/South Asian outfits, food, and sweets. It also houses the headquarters of the Federation of Indian Associations of Victoria (FIAV) and the Indian Museum apart from a new art gallery coming up at Mason Street soon.
According to the Revitalising Central Dandenong (RCD) Foster Street Redevelopment Fact sheet the successful developer and the precinct concept design will be announced in the coming months.
“Development Victoria acknowledges the social and cultural significance of the Little India precinct in central Dandenong and its contribution to the local economy. A prosperous, vibrant, and sustainable Little India precinct is an integral part of the Revitalising Central Dandenong vision. The proposed redevelopment aims to deliver enhanced retail and cultural offering within a contemporary, mixed-use development”, it says.
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Talking to SAT, Vasan Srinivasan, former FIAV President and currently Chairman of the Mental Health Foundation of Australia says, ” I am disappointed at the move and the keys of the FIAV office and the Indian Museum have already been handed over to the authorities.”
No statement from the Little India traders has yet been received. But Mr. Manoj Kumar, ALP E-mailed us his view saying, “Little India precinct is an integral part of the city of Greater Dandenong offering a one-stop center for vibrant subcontinental cultures, ethnic fashion products, clothing, foods, and museum. We have been fighting since 2010 to retain this precinct and will continue to stand with Little India traders in this hour of need.”
The report will be updated as and when necessary with new facts and statements.