An umbrella body of 781 registered trade associations, the Federation of Associations of Maharashtra (FAM), has approached Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray for permission to keep shops open from Monday to Saturday.
In its letter to the chief minister, the association has argued that the ongoing alternate working day model has not worked out. “It is almost two months since we have been following the alternate day model. But most of the traders are struggling to settle down. Business is yet to pick up. With public transport operations still shut, there are hardly any customers,” said FAM’s Ashish Mehta, also the president of Bombay Timber Merchants Association.
Jitendra Shah, senior vice-president, FAM, said the alternate day model was economically unviable. “Shops are open for 12 days, but pay rents and salaries for the whole month. It is not sustainable,” he said.
Under Phase I of ‘Mission Begin Again’, shops in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Pune, Nagpur, and other Covid-19 hotspots in the state were first allowed to resume activity from June 5. But for staggering the crowd, they were permitted to open for three days a week.
“We have tried the model for nearly two months. It isn’t working out,” Mehta said. In its letter, the FAM said while it understands that controlling the public health emergency is the government’s utmost priority, thousands of traders were struggling to stay afloat and there was a need to revive the economy at the earliest.
But even as trade associations believe that reverting to the six-day-a-week system will allow the business community to recover losses and even accelerate the state’s economy, Thackeray advocated a cautious approach.
In an interview to the Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Saamana, he said, “Everyone say open and unlock things and that the economy is under threat. Yes, I agree. But will these people take responsibility if many people get infected and die? Are you ready to let people die for the economy?” he asked, while hinting that some more relaxations will be offered on lockdown curbs from August 1.
At the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic in India, the state has reported 3.66 lakh cases and 13,389 deaths so far. But Mehta said allowing businesses to remain open from Monday to Saturday will also lift the psychological barrier for the trading community.
“Today, I’m open one day, closed the next, and open again the third day. It worsens even more when your supplier or reseller is closed on the day when you are open. How does one do business then?” Mehta asked. “Our plea is to resume as much as possible on all six days,” he said, while adding that the business community was willing to abide by additional precautionary measures to meet the requirement.
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