Traders say Delhi govt should have consulted before announcing night curfew
As the clock struck eight, Amrit Kishore quickly packed the last set of cotton t-shirts that were put on display outside his 30-square-feet shop in Sarojini Nagar before he could pull down the shutter and travel nearly 35 kms on his scooter to reach his residence at Jharoda in the southwest Delhi.
“It would be better if the government had given us some more time. Traders would be more prepared,” said Kishore, referring to the government announcing a night curfew in the city on Tuesday in the light of a severe spike in the Covid-19 cases in the Capital. On Tuesday, Delhi recorded 5,100 new cases and 17 more deaths.
Market associations, traders and business owners across the city said they were not prepared for a curfew with some of them saying that to ensure that they reach home by 10pm, they will have to shut their shops early. Several of them also criticised the government’s move questioning the efficacy of night curfews in arresting the rapid spread of Covid-19.
During the seven-hour curfew period, from 10 pm to 5 am, movement of only government officials, healthcare workers, those working for essential services or arriving at airports, railway stations or interstate bus terminals (ISBTs) and those travelling for Covid-19 vaccination or any medical treatment will be allowed
“We hardly got time to initiate an awareness drive. People learnt about the night curfew after they arrived in the market today. We still managed to ensure that all shops are closed by 8.30pm. On usual days, they wrap up by 10 pm. Several traders come from faraway places such as Ghaziabad and Gurugram. The night curfew will pose additional challenges for them,,” said Ashok Randhawa, president of Sarojini Nagar mini market welfare association.
Devraj Baweja, general secretary of confederation of Sadar Bazar traders’ association, said it was a difficult task today to ensure that the market closed exceptionally early on Tuesday. “Also, the news of the night curfew spread panic among traders and workers. The government should have done this in a more systematic manner and given more time to the traders,” Baweja said.
The night curfew meant restaurants, bars and pubs in the city had to wrap up quickly for Tuesday and make plans for the days ahead.
Manpreet Singh, treasurer of the National Restaurants Association of India, said the government should have held discussions with hotels and restaurant groups before taking the decision. “I personally do not see a solution in night curfews, especially when the central government has also said that such a curb is not much efficient. It will adversely affect hotels and restaurants which are already in poor shape because of the pandemic and lockdown.”
The night curfew also means several hotels now have to make special arrangements for clients who had already booked halls for weddings and private functions this month.
Rohit Arora, area general manager of The Park hotel in Connaught Place said, “We adopted flexible timings for weddings and other events. We have rescheduled the events to a couple of hours earlier, which allows both the guests to enjoy their event and us to be a law-abiding entity. We are sensitive about guest security and place utmost importance on safety and hygiene, hence in case of weddings, we are requesting guests to stay back in our hotel rooms for the night. As far as dining is concerned, our in-house guests are welcome to eat till midnight. We stand both by the law and order and our patrons to operate smoothly.”
Several banquet hall and hotel owners in the city said that they started calling up their clients after the news of the night curfew broke out on Tuesday, telling them that they will have to wrap up the celebrations by 10 pm now.
“Several clients were already agitated after the government limited the number of guests in marriage functions. Now the night curfew order means they will have to wrap up their limited celebrations too by 10 pm. It is getting difficult for us to convince them. But it is a government order and has to be followed,” said Purushottam Kalra, president of Shamiyana Dealer Vyapar Sudhar Samiti – an association of banquet halls in the city.
Last month, the government imposed a cap of maximum 200 guests for marriage functions hosted outdoors, 100 for indoors and 50 for funerals.
Sandeep Khandelwal of Delhi hotels and restaurants owners’ association said: “The government should have talked to hotel, restaurant and banquet hall owners before taking this call. Compliance was difficult on Tuesday because the order was issued on such short notice. But the coming days will pose financial challenges. The hospitality industry is already in poor shape.”