MANALI: Chingu, an item of suspense for customers and part of strategy to earn cash for Kashmiri shopkeepers, is robbing thousands of innocent people for whom it is a souvenir from Manali. Despite complete ban, shopkeepers are selling it uninterrupted for years and the business is at peak point these days.
Multi-crore market of chingu, a blanket which Kashmiri shopkeepers claim to be made of feathers of a rare animal, is making hundreds of tourists the victim of fraud every day. Having no fear of the police, Kashmiri shopkeepers have spread their network in Vashisht, Old Manali, Dhungari and Manali. Out of curiosity, tourists are purchasing chingu blanket, which in fact is an ordinary blanket, for over 5 thousand rupees. The business of chingu sellers is flourishing everywhere in Kullu district and all attempts by police and administration to tighten screws over such shopkeepers have failed.
“No such animal exist. This is only a business strategy to create suspense among the customers,” a chingu seller in Manali said adding that a chingu package which includes a blanket (which they claim made of chingu feather), a shawl, a bed sheet and warm clothes is selling upto Rs 20 thousand easily.
Chingu sellers sell their products after convincing the purchasers that they have limited stock as chingu animals are on the verge of extinction. Some sellers sign agreement documents with purchasers where they mention that they would refund the full money if chingu would spoil before two years. Customers can also avail the online facility being provided by all chingu sellers. Customers can pay after receiving the delivery at their doorstep.
A chingu victim from West Bengal, Ayushman Dwivedi, complained with TOI that he has been cheated by a Kashimiri seller for Rs 9 thousand. “The guy forcefully pulled me inside the shop and asked me to spare a moment to check the blankets which he claimed to be of a rare mountain animal called chingu. The blanket was so soft that my wife forced me to purchase two of them. After bargaining for five minutes we picked up two for Rs 9 thousand but when we reached our hotel, our hotel manager said that we have been cheated,” he said.
Police, local beopar mandal and administration in their meetings have planned to eradicate the chingu fraud many a time but nothing has been done on ground level. Kullu police chief Ashok Kumar said that they have alerted local shopkeepers and residents to keep close watch on the chingu sellers. He said, “Some people have been complaining of fraud with tourists by selling chingu blankets. I have requested public to complain with us and also have directed police not to spare such fraud shopkeepers.”