THE JEWELLERY market of Rajkot, one of the biggest hubs of gold and silvery jewellery manufacturing and wholesale trade, will remain closed for a week from Saturday onwards as the market has become a Covid-19 hotspot within the city, claiming over 35 lives. This is for the second time in a month that the jewellers have decided to impose a voluntary lockdown on themselves.
“Situation in the jewellery market is worse than a Covid-19 red zone. More than 35 jewellers and people associated with this business have lost their lives to the virus. Another 400 to 500 are in isolation or are undergoing treatment in hospitals. Authorities are unable to help us much. People are not observing social distance. In such a circumstance, there is no other option left but to remain shut for a week,” Bhaya Saholiya, president of Rajkot Gold Dealers Association (RGDA) told The Indian Express on Friday.
Saholiya’s younger brother Harish Saholiya (57) and the latter’s wife Hansa are among those who have succumbed to the disease this week. “Of the 26 persons who died in Covid-19 hospitals on Thursday, four were jewellers. And they all were below 60 years of age,” Saholiya said.
Around 200 large jewellery showrooms located on Palace Road, University Road and Mavdi Road are members of the RGDA. Other 550 smaller retail, wholesale and jewellery manufacturing outlets located in Soni Bazaar, Gujari Bazaar, Kansara Bazaar and Para Bazaar in the old city area are members of Gems and Jewellery Association of Rajkot (GJAR). They, too, have decided to join the second voluntary lockdown.
“Besides over three dozen deaths in past two months, at least eight other jewellers are either on oxygen support or on ventilators in Covid hospitals. Our outlets are very small in size and located in highly congested areas, making it possible to observe social distancing norms. In our last effort for a voluntary shutdown, around 50% jewellers had joined. This time, we are expecting, at least 80% would remain closed,” GJAR president Divyesh Patadiya said. His uncle Pravin Patadiya is among the jewellers who died after contacting the virus.
The GJAR president said there is panic among the community. “People are not getting themselves tested for fear of testing positive and thereby running the risk of having to keep their showrooms closed… After we made a representation to Deputy Municipal Commissioner Chetan Nandani, a team from the health department of Rajkot Municipal Corporation came in the market but not many turned up for testing,” he said, adding associations of shopping complexes housing jewellery show-rooms had also extended their support to the call for the second lockdown.
Patadiya said that the community is paying dearly for some of its own mistakes. “After lockdown norms were eased, a number of people attended two social functions. Secondly, majority of jewellers have habit of chewing paan and faki and share cups of tea and coffee. These habits could be playing a role in spreading the infection in congested area like ours.”
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