Wales closure falloutAlmost two months after the end of sugar operations at the Wales Estate, on the West Bank Demerara (WBD), members in the community and surrounding villages continue to face the far-reaching impacts from the closure. Among those affected include sugar workers, their families, and the local economies of several lower WBD communities, including Patentia, Vriesland, Wales, Good Intent, Sisters’ andHindu priest Surendra TiwariBellevue.Patentia-based Hindu priest, Surendra Tiwari, who has been in practice for the last eight years, has described the future outlook for the surrounding communities as “grim”. In a recent interview with this publication, the Pandit highlighted the numerous challenges villagers and the business community have encountered as sugar processing halted on December 31, last year. Hundreds of sugar workers were forced to seek alternative forms of employment to sustain their livelihood.Focusing on his own plight, the priest indicated that the business he operates also suffered loses as persons are spending less. Tiwari indicated that he sent out applications to two companies in an effort to garner additional employment. Up to now, the Pandit is still awaiting a response. Moreover, it was suggested that the Hindu practice is under threat as many believers have cut back on the number of “Puja” observances they would usually host.“Many Pandits around the country have said the closure of the estate and theThe Wales Sugar Estate finalised the closure of sugar operations on December 31, 2016downturn of Guyana’s economy, rituals have been cut back,” he noted.Tiwari further explained that in previous times, families would invite a large contingent of persons, but this has changed as hosts of the religious functions have curbed their numbers, which reduces the amount of opportunities for community folk to gather. It was also explained that while Pandits don’t officially charge for performing religious work, residents have reduced the amount of money they give to the priests and in some cases, villagers cannot afford to offer financial incentives.“Some persons give and some don’t give because they don’t have jobs and don’t have a steady income coming in and hence the reason why they can’t give donations to the temple or they can’t pay the Pandit to perform certain rituals functions,” he explained.ImpactTiwari posited that the reduction in religious observances can have a psychological impact on the well-being of residents.“It would have a mental toll on them because many Hindus normally perform yearly and functions at Temples… knowing that you’re a Hindu and can’t perform those functions because of lack of jobs and income, it would cause a mental breakdown,” reasoned the religious leader.Tiwari also claimed that the closure is leading to a large number persons, especially of Indian descent, to fast-track migration which, according to him, is threatening the continuation of not only the Hindu religion, but that of Islam as well. The leader also noted that income considerations are propelling the residents to leave.“Persons who have money are migrating to the islands, the US and Canada in search of greener pastures and jobs, and this are happen primarily to Indo-Guyanese because the majority of them held jobs at the Wales Estate,” Tiwari stressed.He even highlighted some of the social impacts he has seen over the past several months where community practices, such as barbecues and other shows are no longer being held. He noted too that villagers have cut back on luxuries due to the lack of jobs. “Person cannot afford the fancy places to eat like Royal Castle, DQ, and Chicken and Burger Delight – these are facts,” Tiwari stated. The closure of the estate affected hundreds of workers and farmers directly and thousands of persons in the Wales and surrounding communities indirectly. At this point, many Wales workers claim that they are still awaiting severance payment and have cited that they have largely been out of work since late December 2016. They noted that their ability to send children to school is being affected.Earlier this week, workers reminded that President David Granger and Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo had committed their support to the sugar industry in the run-up to the 2015 General and Regional Elections. On this premises, they called for an intervention of the President and his Cabinet members to address their many concerns. The decision to cease sugar operations was confirmed by Government in January 2016 after Guyana Times broke the news of closure earlier that month.