WITH UNCERTAINTY staring them in the face, store owners in one of Chandigarh’s biggest shopping malls — Elante Mall — see little hope of business resuming anytime soon.
Once bustling with crowds, the busiest mall today lies deserted with not a single person around. From international brands to eating joints, the mall would see massive crowds every day.
City-based traders who have stores in Elante Mall say they are ruined and the government should do something to waive their rent and other charges as they have no earnings with their outlets being shut for over a month now.
“On an average, a store in Elante pays rent of around Rs 4-7 lakh per month. All our other outlets are shut and it is really difficult to manage. From where will we pay the rent when there is no earning?” asked Neeraj Bajaj, owner of Sindhi Sweets.
Bajaj said there is a minimum charge of electricity too, also which the store owners have to pay.
“Even if the power is not consumed and the shops are shut, we have to pay the minimum charge of electricity too…the administration has just deferred the date, not waived it. There is absolutely no earning at all because the shops are shut. Where do we get rent and other committed liabilities to pay from?” he added.
Nikhil Mittal, owner of the upscale chain NIK Bakers said that they have been going through tough times. “If I have around 15 outlets in North, the rent of each store will come out to be huge. Where do I pay the rent from? Selling essentials doesn’t help me even pay salaries of the staff working at two other outlets in the city. The government really needs to help us out the way the Canadian government has done,” he added.
Mittal further said, “Even if the landlords defer the payment, the fact is from where will we pay when we don’t have earning at all. Both landlords and tenants have their own set of struggles and the government really needs to come forward to help.”
In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had issued a statement saying, “we have reached agreements with all provinces and territories to lower rent for small business by 75 per cent for the months of April, May and June. If your small business has been hit hard, the government will cover 50 per cent of your rent and your property owner will cover 25 per cent.”
President of Chandigarh Traders Body Charanjiv Singh said, “We the traders of Chandigarh have asked the administration to waive the charges. We all are in deep losses. Moreover, the rents of various shops like that of Elante too are very high.”
Salaries of the staff working at the mall have also been impacted. The fate of the salaries for April and the coming months is not yet known.
Meanwhile, the Elante Mall in a statement said they had paid salaries to the staff for March.
The statement further said, “We are preparing ourselves for the post COVID-19 scenario and have put together stringent protocols that follow the basic premise of ensuring social distancing. We will take utmost care of sanitising the mall at regular intervals, guests and staff shall be checked for temperature and wearing masks will be mandatory for everyone on the premises, once shopping centres open up. Meanwhile, over the last five weeks, we have distributed several ration kits and have been providing necessary help to the families in need during these difficult times.”
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