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With 30 Animals & 350 Staff, Jumbo Circus Reels Under Lockdown

With the pandemic bringing life to a standstill, jumbo Circus is struggling to survive.

Updated
COVID-19
4 min read
With 30 Animals & 350 Staff, Jumbo Circus Reels Under Lockdown
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Jumbo circus, a branch of the iconic Gemini circus which was started in 1951, is now in an absolute limbo due to the lockdown and has appealed to the government for aid to ensure the business doesn’t collapse.

The circus group, originally from Thalassery, Kerala, has travelled across the country for decades and entertained children with trapeze artists, tricks and mime shows.

“This is an art that is 140 years old, older than cinema. This is a poor man's mode of entertainment. We travel to villages and small towns to conduct shows and even the cost of the tickets is very nominal,” said Ajay Shankar, the owner of the circus.

However, now with revenue at a standstill and mounting expenses to take care of the staff and animals, the owner is worried about the future of the circus.

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No Means, Mounting Expenditure

“We require at least Rs 50,000 to take care of over 30 animals – birds, dogs, camels and horses – and over 350 staff members. We have two camps, one in Kottakkal and another in Kayamkulam in Kerala. We are now managing with what we have in our pockets but this is a real strain on our business,” he added.

‘The cost of feeding the animals is burning a hole in our pockets,’ said the circus owner.
(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)
Ravindran, the instructor said they are ensuring social distancing norms even while staying together in the camps.
(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)
The last show they performed was on 10 March and since then the coronavirus pandemic brought the curtains down on them.
(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)
Rs 50,000 is required to take care of over 30 animals - birds, dogs, camels and horses - and 350 staff members.
(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

The last performance was on 10 March and since then the coronavirus pandemic brought the curtains down on them. A few of the artists managed to return to their hometowns but the others continue to live in the tents erected by the circus group.

“Many from Kashmir, Nepal, Maharashtra and other states couldn't go back. But we are providing accommodation, food and other basic supplies,” Shankar told The Quint. There are five to six artists from Russia and Africa who were working on a one-year contract who are also now staying in makeshift tents.

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Panchayat Steps in to Help

There are five to six artists from Russia and Africa who were working on a one-year contract who are also now staying at the camps.
(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)
A few of the artists managed to return to their hometowns but the others continue to live in the tents erected in the camps put up by the circus.
(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

Raghunath, the manager of the Jumbo circus told The Quint that they have reached out to the Kottakkal panchayat who have provided them with 100 kgs each of rice and pulses and 50 kgs of dal. However, that doesn’t suffice their needs.

“We got 100 kilos of rice last week, but we need at least 40 kilos everyday to feed only our staff so we can manage only for about three days with the donation we have received. We are grateful but we would definitely need continuous aid as we spend thousands for animal fodder as well,” said the circus owner.

The Kottakkal panchayat provided them with 100 kgs each of rice and pulses and 50 kgs of dal. However, that doesn’t suffice their needs.
(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)
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Ravindran, the circus instructor told The Quint that they are ensuring social distancing norms and maintaining complete hygiene, even while staying together in the camp.

All the artists are staying in tents erected on the grounds. 
(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)
The staff are worried when they will be able to earn again.
(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)
A few of the artists managed to return to their hometowns but the others continue to live in the tents.
(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)
The employees are glad the circus owner is taking care of their food and other basic needs.
(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)
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‘Need Loan on 0% Interest to Revive Circus:’ Owner

Usually, during a show day, they incur expenses of over one lakh rupees, which includes salaries, food, water and shelter for the staff and animals. They travel across the country and conduct at least eight shows in a month.

“The trucks cost anywhere between Rs 8,000 an Rs 10,000 per trip and we require at least 35 trucks for every trip to take the animals. We also need to calculate the cost of the ground,” said Shankar.

The circus troupe has appealed to the state and central government to give financial aid to help kick-start the circus once the lockdown is lifted.

“We don't have any capital and if we can’t pay our artists, they will move to other professions, like construction and factory work. So the government should give a loan of 50-60 lakhs on a zero interest rate. Maybe even consider offering us help through the Mudra scheme, so that we can revive the business in at least 4 months,” said Shankar.

They requested that the government provide grounds at a nominal rate of Rs 1,000 - Rs 3,000, as they now shell out as much as Rs 15,000 per day for a show. “Electricity should be provided for free or at least at domestic rates and an insurance policy should be introduced for circus artists as the future is uncertain now,” said the owner Shankar.

Raghunath said they wish to meet the prime minister once the country has overcome this pandemic to discuss solutions to keep the circus alive.

They wish to meet the prime minister once the country has overcome this pandemic to discuss solutions to keep the circus alive.
(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

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