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Already reeling, traders in Delhi brace for weekend curfew, suggest alternatives to curb Covid

Since the night curfew has been imposed, shopkeepers wrap up by 7.30-8 pm so they can reach their homes on time, which has also been impacting business as only a few people come out to shop during the day in summers.

Written by Ashna Butani | New Delhi |
Updated: April 17, 2021 1:30:55 am
Delhi markets, Delhi curfewMarkets faced huge losses in 2020 due to the lockdown. Business only got better around Diwali, following which it saw another dip. (Express Photo/File)

With the government imposing weekend curfew till April 30, Delhi market associations fear that the move will further impact business as a huge chunk of their sales depend on Saturdays and Sundays.

To help them stay afloat while observing Covid safety protocol, market association heads have suggested alternative moves to contain the virus spread.

Sanjay Bajaj (56), who runs a garment shop in Sarojini Nagar, said most of his customers are working professionals who step out for shopping on the weekends.

“We have to pay rent and electricity every month. Further, we have three-four employees each and their starting salary is Rs 12,000. It is not possible to run our homes and shops when there are hardly any sales. Two of my employees from Bihar booked their tickets today and are heading home tomorrow because they are afraid they would not be able to sustain with low sales,” he said.

The concerns were echoed by Gaurav Batra (41), who runs a handbag store in Sarojini Nagar: “We had already been living hand to mouth. First, the night curfew impacted business since we have to wrap up early and most shoppers come out in the evening in summer. With the weekend curfew, it will only make matters worse. We try our best to help our employees. But we need to receive some help too…”

Ashok Randhawa, president of Sarojini Nagar Mini Market Traders’ Association, said, “There is no doubt that strict protocol should be followed at this time. However, there are other methods that can be followed, for instance, deploying civil defence volunteers to maintain social distancing, restricted entry, shops following odd-even scheme, or weekday curfews. Because most people are free on Saturday and Sunday, a majority of the sales take place then.”

He added that there are over 1 lakh stores in the city and each employs around 3-4 people and, hence, the livelihood of lakhs of people are at stake: “Shopkeepers are scared since they have to pay rent, electricity and labour costs. Some have started leaving for their homes already.”

Markets faced huge losses in 2020 due to the lockdown. Business only got better around Diwali, following which it saw another dip.

Traders said that things were beginning to get better in the last few months, until Covid cases started rising again.
Since the night curfew has been imposed, shopkeepers wrap up by 7.30-8 pm so they can reach their homes on time. This too, they said, has been impacting business as only a few people come out to shop during the day in summers.

Atul Bhargava, president, New Delhi Traders’ Association, said that the government should have consulted traders before announcing the weekend curfew: “In the last few days, footfall in Connaught Place has gone down by 10-15 per cent. Traders do not get any reduction in rent or taxes. Even when the lockdown hit us last year, we were all by ourselves.”

At Chandni Chowk too, business has dipped. Sanjay Bhargava, president, Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyapar Mandal, said business is down to 25-30 per cent. “The fear is everywhere. Many retailers have shut their shops. My suggestion to the government is that they impose a seven-day lockdown instead of a weekend lockdown,” he said.

Heads of 12 market associations also issued a statement on April 16, which said: “We all were of the common view that the operational timing can be staggered or reduced rather than going for a lockdown which will not only have a direct impact on the government revenue, livelihood of workers, creating a sense of insecurity in the country but will also not have any positive impact in breaking the chain.” They suggested that markets operate between 12 noon and 7 pm.

Further, market heads added that the Delhi government should offer compensatory packages for traders since they will be reeling under losses yet again.

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