Govt steps up enforcement at markets; unfair to lay all blame on us, say traders
After several recorded instances of violations of Covid-19 regulations at markets in the city over the last four weeks, the state government has deployed 149 teams to enforce masking and distancing norms in these usually crowded spots.
In the last four weeks, at least 30 markets in the city — including Laxmi Nagar market, large parts of Sadar Bazar, Gaffar Market in Karol Bagh, Lajpat Nagar Central Market, Tilak Nagar market and several local markets in Nangloi, Madangir, and Rohini — have been temporarily suspended for violating Covid-19 regulations.
Between July 1 and 25, government records showed, at least four containment zones were set up in market areas. Delhi currently has 309 containment zones.
“These teams are entrusted with not only imposing fines on people found violating Covid-19 regulations in the markets, but also recording videos and sending inputs every day to the sub-divisional magistrates concerned. On the basis of such inputs, actions such as temporarily shutting down a market – which in itself is an extreme measure – are taken. It cannot be helped. Rules have to be followed to prevent another potential wave of the disease,” said a top official of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA).
Old Delhi’s Meena Bazaar saw a moderate crowd on Sunday. While the portion of the market comprising street vendors were relatively busier than week days, the cloth market wore a largely deserted look. While violation of physical distancing was not very pronounced, mask discipline was quite poor with people not wearing a mask or wearing it below the nose.
Rekha Gupta, a resident of Daryaganj, said that she was passing through the area and decided to take a look at the market. “Due to the weekend, the market is a little crowded, it seems. Many people are not wearing masks either. As long as people wear a mask, stepping out should not be a problem. I came for routine shopping but one needs to understand that staying at home is not a solution. But people must wear masks at least,” said Gupta.
Tabeer Qureshi, sat alone in his garments shop, as he waited for customers. Qureshi said that violation of physical distancing norms was out of the question since the market was hardly getting visitors. “Very few people are coming to Chandni Chowk these days on weekdays. Among the visitors, many do not wear a mask and shopkeepers cannot force them to wear one. We can only request them to wear a mask. If they don’t listen, we can’t do much.”
Ashok Luthra, who owns a jewellery store in south Delhi’s GK I market, said that while physical distancing became a challenge at times, shop keepers reminded visitors about covid protocols. “The market gets crowded at times but we ask people to disperse if such a situation arises. We ask them to leave or come later if the crowd is significant. Masking is not a major issue since most people tend to wear one. If they don’t, we request to wear a mask,’ said Luthra.
Shreya Tripathy, 26, researcher, who was at the market to meet a friend, said that it was relatively less crowded than other markets such as CP. “The market seems largely empty. It is definitely not as crowded as other markers such as CP. People are mostly wearing a mask so that’s good,” said Tripathy.
On Saturday, HT also visited the Sadar Bazar and Gandhi Nagar markets, which were found to be moderately crowded and people not wearing masks could be spotted now and then.
WHAT TRADERS SAY
“In the last few weeks, several markets have faced temporary suspension orders. It is unfair to put the entire burden of Covid-19 regulations on market welfare bodies. Local agencies and authorities too have responsibilities in this regard. We will meet the chief secretary soon to discuss the issue,” said Brijesh Goyal, president of chamber of trade and industry -- a collective of market and trader welfare bodies based in Delhi.
Nitin Gupta, president of Kamla Nagar market traders’ association, said: It is time the authorities should crack down on illegal encroachment instead of cracking down on market associations. If shop owners are found flouting rules, action should be taken against the particular shops instead of closing an entire market.”
“Shop owners are complying with Covid-19 regulations but they cannot do it alone. It has to be done through proper coordination with the police, civic agencies and district authorities. We shall meet the senior officials in this regard on Monday,” said Devraj Baweja, president of Sadar Bazar Traders’ Confederation.
Kapil Gandhi, president of New Market welfare association Tilak Nagar, said: “There are encroachment issues in the market. We need better coordination from the authorities instead of such crackdowns.”