Updated: August 7, 2021 7:21:25 pm
TRADERS and shopkeepers in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad, who have been demanding extension of shop timings, have said they will be forced to launch an intensified agitation from Monday unless a decision was taken soon.
A decision on allowing shops to remain open till 7 pm, instead of the current 4 pm, was expected to be taken at the weekly Covid review meeting which is held every Friday. However, the meeting did not take place this Friday.
“… We have now been told by civic officials that the meeting will be held on Sunday. Usually, government meetings do not take place on Sundays… we hope this one will take place,” Mahendra Pitaliya, secretary of the Federation of Trade Associations of Pune, told The Indian Express on Saturday.
Pitaliya said traders had banked heavily on Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who is also the guardian minister of Pune district, acting on their demand. “… We were confident that he would take an appropriate decision on our demand… but he has not said anything… the shopkeepers and traders are upset with him. However, we are still hoping that Pawar will hold a meeting on Sunday and take a decision in our favour,” said Pitaliya.
“We will observe the weekend lockdown norm but if no decision is taken by Sunday, we will launch an agitation from Monday,” said Fatechand Ranka, president of the Federation of Trade Associations of Pune. A few days ago, the Federation had held a ‘ghanta naad’ (ringing of bells) agitation to draw the attention of the government to their demands.
Pitaliya said the current timings are neither in the interest of shopkeepers nor customers. “Currently, they want us to open the shops at 7 am and close down at 4 pm. This does not making any sense as customers do not turn up at 7 am. Most of the people who work through the day come to the shop after 6 pm… the most suitable timing for shops is from 10 am to 7 pm,” he said.
Ranka said Pune city’s Covid positivity rate has come down to 1.89 per cent, yet the government was not extending the timing of the shops. “… Both shopkeepers and the government are losing precious revenue. If low Covid positivity rate is a deciding factor, there is no reason why timings in Pune city should not be extended as the positivity rate has dipped,” Ranka said.
Members of the Federation said a trader in Mandai area had attempted to die by suicide over the curtailed timings and after the incident, cases were registered against 30 shopkeepers. “This has further angered shopkeepers and traders,” they said.
District Collector Rajesh Deshmukh, however, said Pawar will hold a meeting with shopkeepers at 3 pm on Sunday. “The decision will be taken on Sunday,” he said.
The Merchants Association of Pimpri-Chinchwad has also urged the PCMC to extend shop timings. “We have been called for a meeting at Sunday at 3 pm. We are confident that Ajitdada will take a positive decision on extending the timings,” said Srichand Aswani, president of the association.
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