Delhi: Covid-19 lockdown rumours hit business in city markets
There is anxiety among traders in Delhi about a possible lockdown, even as chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and several other senior leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) insist that it is out of question.Updated: Nov 23, 2020, 01:23 IST
In east Delhi’s Gandhi Nagar wholesale market, Akashdeep Balli pulled out a stack of packed jackets from a shelf in his shop as few eager customers asked him about the possibility of stock clearance rebates.
As Balli wholeheartedly agreed, his neighbouring shop owners came out yelling higher discounts in the light of a “lockdown” which, they said, can be imposed any time due to a surge in Covid-19 cases in Delhi.
There is anxiety among traders in Delhi about a possible lockdown, even as chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and several other senior leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) insist that it is out of question.
“This is the time of the year when the second round of trade for winter apparels take place. The first round happens in October. In late-November, most traders go for another round to refill their stocks. As small-time wholesalers, we are not going for the second round this year fearing a lockdown. Instead, we are only focussing on clearing current stocks at a discount and keep a close eye on the Covid-19 numbers and trends,” said Balli.
In Delhi, several traders said rumours about the possibility of a lockdown was already in place during the festive season in October, largely backed by the high numbers of daily Covid-19 cases and deaths.
The anxieties were triggered last week when the chief minister said that he has written to the central government asking permission for temporarily closing down markets, which are assessed as potential Covid-19 hot spots. Senior officials said that the government has not received anything on this regard from the Centre yet.
A Delhi government spokesperson said, “Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has met the representatives of the market associations of Delhi to seek cooperation in controlling the rising cases of Covid-19 in the national capital. In the meeting, the CM was assured by the market associations that they will support the government to prevent coronavirus infections in the marketplaces.”
“The CM clarified that the Delhi government does not want to shut down any market. He appealed to the market associations to provide masks to the shoppers who are visiting markets without masks. The Delhi government has no intention to hamper the ongoing economic activities but at the same time seriously monitoring the Covid situation. The government believes that with the participation of market associations, volunteers and the people of Delhi the situation will improve soon,” the spokesperson added.
However, despite clarifications and assurances by the government, there is anxiety among traders in wholesale markets such as Gandhi Nagar and Sadar Bazar and prominent retail hubs such as Lajpat Nagar, Karol Bagh and Sarojini Nagar. HT visited these markets on Sunday.
The wholesale markets such as Gandhi Nagar and Sadar Bazar are also a major source of garments for the thousands of local weekly markets, flea markets, and vendors operating without permanent shops in the prominent markets. So, temporary closing of one would have cascading effects on business in others, the traders said.
“We are trying to convince traders that there will be no lockdown, with regular meetings, social media messages and video conferences, but it looks like the rumours and the fears have already affected the trade cycle – especially in winter apparels,” said Brijesh Goel, president of the chamber of trade and industry.
A widely circulated message shared on WhatsApp which had a list of 16 prominent markets chosen for a “20-day lockdown” later this month also fanned fears. Senior government officials have dismissed the message as “rumours”.
OP Gupta, president of wholesale garment traders’ association in Gandhi Nagar, said: “The anxieties have affected the winter garment business directly. And unsold stocks are a big problem because several designs go out of fashion in a year. Most traders are focusing on clearing unsold stocks now – often with big discounts. Fresh procurements entail risk. The market anyway has not recovered well from the shock of the first nationwide lockdown.”
Devraj Baweja, president of general secretary of confederation of Sadar Bazar traders’ association, said: “Even though some traders in Delhi markets are trying to procure fresh stocks, dismissing possibilities of a lockdown, they are facing difficulties too. Material for winter garments come mostly from Ludhiana (in Punjab) and Tiruppur (in Tamil Nadu). In those states, traders have heard about the lockdown rumours in Delhi and they have clearly started to anticipate problems in recovery of debts. So, they too are hesitating to sell more.”