A packet of carrom board coins, dice, and five pens — the bill of sale at Vinod Kumar Goyal’s stationery shop in East Delhi’s Mayur Vihar Phase-1 shows that this is what the 60-year-old was able to sell, a month after he opened his shop, on Sunday.
Goyal spent Rs 1.5 lakh procuring books for the current academic year and was distraught at not being able to sell a single one. “Shops are finally open and people are buying board games from my store. My entire year is ruined because of the lockdown,” he said.
The Delhi government Saturday allowed the opening of standalone shops as well as those in neighbourhoods and residential areas, selling both essential and non-essential items, after the Union Home Ministry’s advisory relaxing curbs to allow functioning of select shops.
On Sunday, many shops in the city opened early morning and in the evening and saw but a trickle of customers. They welcomed the relaxation, but feared it will take at least six months to a year attain some form of normalcy.
Sources in the Delhi government said it was not in favour of lifting restrictions but their hand was forced when, on Saturday, several traders opened their shops citing the MHA order.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Sunday said, “The Centre has decided to open a few neighbourhood shops, we will follow the MHA order in Delhi as well. Essential services will remain open, but markets, complexes, and shopping malls will be shut… We have worked hard to ensure stability and strength in our battle against Corona, we should not let anything push us back.”
In Jangpura’s H block, the only shop open on Sunday evening, apart from grocery stores, was a hole-in-the wall electric repair shop. Kumar, who runs the shop, has had a busy day.
“People have been frustrated for the last month because they have appliances which stopped working and couldn’t get it fixed. Even while my shop was closed, I would get calls from people calling me to their homes to fix something or the other,” he said.
Elsewhere in Jangpura, the government’s order has translated to little on the ground, with the only shops open being grocery, fruit, vegetable and milk stores, and pharmacies which had already been open.
At Chilla Village in Mayur Vihar, a tea shop was the first to open at 6 am. Lata Devi (63) has been running the stall for the past 25 years. After six hours, not a single customer visited. She spent Rs 600 to buy three litres of milk and some rusks. “I have to sell at least 10 cups of tea to survive. From tomorrow, we will not be able to open shop as we have run out of money to buy milk,” she said.
A few metres away is Tilak Dev Thakur’s home as well as his shop. He lives with five members of his family and sells undergarments. He saw only two customers till noon: “I need Rs 15,000 to buy stock from Gandhi Nagar once the cloth market opens. It will take me at least six months to earn that kind of money again.”
In upscale Nizamuddin East on Sunday evening, the only shop open was a stationery store — Prem Prakash store. “I only opened at 5 pm, I don’t know what kind of footfall I’ll see here,” said Sunny, at the store. The other stores which surround his are a beauty salon, a dry-cleaning store and an eatery, all of which are closed. A few stores down is a grocery store which has been operating throughout.
Police are also keeping an eye to make sure no one violates the guidelines. “We have briefed personnel to keep a check near residential areas, wholesale markets. In South and East Delhi, shops with essential goods were the only ones open. In other areas, only a few people opened their shops. We have not received any case of violation. Maybe this is because today is Sunday and many shops are shut anyway,” said a Delhi Police spokesperson.
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