Updated: April 9, 2021 5:48:38 pm
Close to 500 Koyambedu retail traders staged a protest in front of their management committee’s office in Chennai on Friday following the Tamil Nadu government’s directive to close fruits and vegetable retail outlets in the wholesale market complex as part of new restrictions imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The traders said there has been no business at all in the past few months and if the shops are shut totally, it will deal a fatal blow to their livelihoods.
More than 1,800 retail shops suffered huge losses when the government closed down the market in May, last year. They were only allowed to open on November 2020. However, within five months of lifting shutters, they have been ordered to close again from April 10.
The workers said they will be holding talks with the government on Friday evening to arrive at a compromise. They said they won’t be able to do business elsewhere if the government asks them to because the facilities in Koyambedu fulfil their purposes and any other place will hurt their trade. They said the government should allow at least 50 per cent of the shops to function on a rotational basis.
A Selvaraj, president, Puratchiyalar Ambedkar Koyembedu Valaga Vyabarigal Munani Sangam, said the government is working with a clear motive to wipe out small-time traders and make way for the big players to flourish. “It happened during the last lockdown and it is happening again. Half of the retail traders have gone back home and now the remaining will also be forced to quit their businesses here. We had been running our businesses for the six months with funding help from other sources. We are unable to pay the rent for our shops due to poor business. The government should reconsider its decision,” he said.
On Thursday, various traders’ welfare associations condemned the government’s decision claiming that a total shutdown will severely affect the livelihood of labourers.
Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangankalain Peramaipu leader Vikrama Raja said they have been repeatedly asking the government to consult with the traders’ associations before taking a decision but that never seems to happen. “The business had just started to return to normal. Only 40 per cent of the retail traders and semi-wholesale traders have resumed work, they are running their businesses without any support from the government. Another shutdown will be a massive blow for traders. On behalf of the federation, we will stage a protest if the government doesn’t pay heed to our demands,” he said.
The Koyambedu police reached the spot on Friday to pacify the irate traders on Friday and asked them to disperse as they had not sought permission to hold a protest. The police personnel said their gathering was against the Covid-19 guidelines. “We are practicing all the safety norms laid down by the government. We are wearing masks, have sanitizers in front of every shop, what else we need to do? Only traders are visiting the area, not customers. Several traders have died as they were unable to repay the debts that they ran up to run their business. If there is a total clampdown on our business, imaging the damage it will cause to the traders and their families,” Lakshmanan, a small-time merchant, said
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