Jitender Saluja supervised as his assistant carefully painted a white circle outside his cooler shop in Kotla Mubarakpur on Monday morning. He was opening his business after 43 days.
After the Delhi government announced different categories of shops which can be opened during the third phase of the lockdown, shops in neighbourhoods across the city opened their shutters on Monday, amid some doubts and hesitation.
While Saluja busied himself with getting his wares in place for customers, Ved Prakash, who runs a hardware store across the narrow lane, brought down his shutters shortly after he had unlocked them. “Sirf pankhe, cooler aur stationery ke dukaan khulenge,” blared a loudspeaker from a police van driving past.
“There is a lot of confusion. As per the government’s orders, hardware shops can open starting today. There are other shopkeepers like me who came to open today but now police are telling us to close. We’ve been closed for over a month and thought we would get some relief now,” said Prakash.
Police manned the cramped lanes of the urban village, asking shopkeepers to remove wares on display outside stores, and people to maintain social distancing. Only stationery, electric appliances, grocery and medical stores were open in the long line of houses with stores at the bottom floor.
Across different localities of South Delhi, The Indian Express found stationery and electrical stores to be the most readily open on the first day of a milder lockdown. “I don’t know why this is the case. Other shops can also open. This is just a residential colony with some shops, not a market,” said Shakti Singh, who had opened his electrical store in Malviya Nagar’s F block Monday afternoon. As of 1.30 pm, he was yet to see customers.
Another small business to open up in residential areas was neighbourhood press-walas. Deepak, who received two sets of clothes at his stand in Hauz Khas Enclave, said: “I saw in the news that small enterprises in colonies can open again so I came from my house in Chattarpur. I’ll head back home after completing these two sets and delivering them.”
In neighbouring Gurgaon, where similar orders for shops were passed, Gaurav Bansal, who owns ‘The Gift Shop’ in Sector 14 market, spent the day cleaning. His helper had gone to his village prior to the lockdown. “Hardly anybody came to purchase items today… but I will clean up the shop for when customers arrive,” he said.
At a salon on New Railway Road, the owner said: “All eight staffers went to their villages in UP during the lockdown. We can’t resume work till they return.”
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