“Aaj kal Sunday Monday ka pata hi nahi chalta hai. Pehle Sunday mein chalne ki jagah nahi hoti thi. Ab roz hi khaali hai,” said Raj Kumar, sitting at the threshold of his dupatta shop in Sarojini Nagar market late Sunday afternoon.
One of the most popular street markets in Delhi, particularly busy on Sundays, continues to be deserted almost a month after markets in the capital reopened after the lockdown.
Tilak Raj owns and runs a shop that sells sequined saris, each worth a few hundred rupees. On Sunday afternoon, he stood outside his shop so he would not have to keep the fan and AC running inside. Of the 55 lights on the ceiling, he carefully left only four such that the shop had enough light.
“I have to do whatever I can to keep my business costs low. If I have to give you an estimate of the sales this month, for 28 days of the shop being open, I have earned Rs 28,000. Today is Sunday; I have been here since 11 am and have made only one sale of Rs 500. Sometimes, I just start feeling anxious and unwell sitting inside the store all day with no business,” he said.
The continued low footfall in the market is also reflected in the number of shops with shutters pulled down. Other shopkeepers say these stores were run by those who rented the space from landlords. Unable to pay rent with poor business, they have shut shops and returned to their hometowns for the time being. Most shops are also running with far less hands on deck than usual.
“I think around 70% of the boys who used to work in the shops have gone back to their villages. I also had two boys, but one has gone back to Rajasthan and the other to UP. Now it’s just me and my brother in the shop. In any case, we don’t need extra hands since business is so slow. We now make Rs 1,000 on a very good day,” said Daya Ram.
Another busy street market on weekends is Lajpat Nagar’s central market. Although shopkeepers complain of slow business, it is marginally busier because it draws people from residential neighbourhoods.
With redevelopment work pending at Sarojini Nagar’s residential area, for which the residents were moved out, the market has also lost its neighbourhood shopper base.
“In about a month of us reopening, I can’t say business has gotten better. In fact, with the number of cases rising, people are getting more scared. They also don’t have income to spare. I’m earning around Rs 3,000 a day, of which the profit is barely Rs 300. I also rent my shop space for Rs 20,000 per month. The landlord has not yet asked for rent after the lockdown. The day he does, I’ll pull down the shutters,” said Harish, a shop owner at Lajpat Nagar.
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