Traders seek curfew extension, end to odd-even system from June 1
Around 100 trader associations of Delhi, in an online meet, sought an end to the odd-even arrangement for opening shops and an extension in curfew timings from June 1, when the fourth phase of lockdown ends.
The associations, including retailers and wholesalers, suggested the relaxations during an online meeting organised by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP’s) trade and industry wing on Thursday. Based on the suggestions, the trade wing will send recommendations to the Delhi government for framing guidelines from June 1.
“We had representatives from at least 100 market associations for the meeting, where most suggested that the timing of the curfew be extended beyond 7pm as well as that shops be allowed to open at least six days a week. Traders, mainly in retail, have been affected because of low sales. We will be sending the recommendations to the chief minister and deputy chief minister for consideration before the new set of guidelines is issued post-May 31,” said Brajesh Goyal, convenor, AAP’s trade and industry wing.
As part of Delhi-specific guidelines for lockdown 4.0 until May 31, the Delhi government had devised the odd-even system for opening of shops in markets on alternate days. The strategy was aimed at limiting the number of people in the markets and to maintain social distancing to stop the spread of Covid-19. The move was based on the Delhi government’s road rationing scheme to reduce pollution in winter.
Shops are required to shut by 7pm due to the night curfew from 7pm to 7am.
According to trader associations, there were more losses in opening shops based on the odd-even system, as they have to pay rent for the entire month while the sales did not pick up due to few customers.
Atul Bhargava, a store owner at Connaught Place and the president of New Delhi Traders’ Association, said, “The odd-even system is not working well for retail markets, where the business is based solely on walk-in customers. We are spending more than what we are earning. The sales are not even enough to meet basic expenses like electricity bills. Besides, there has been no relief from the government in property tax or GST rates. There has to be continuity in the opening of the markets for business to pick up.”
Also, retailers have suggested extending the curfew timing, from 7pm to at least 9pm, citing increased customer footfall in evenings due to summer. Since workers come from far-off areas and with limited transport available, they are not able to stay beyond 5pm, which is when customers start pouring in.
“Markets must be allowed to open every day. We could open late in the morning, as customers come only later in the day and keep open till 8.30pm or so. The curfew can start from 9pm to 6am, which will be feasible for both traders and customers,” said Sanjeev Mehra, president, Khan Market Traders’ Association.
Traders in major markets including Lajpat Nagar, South Extension, Khan Market, Greater Kailash and Sarojini Nagar, as well as wholesale markets like Chandni Chowk, said that staggered timings for opening markets could be a better option than the odd-even system.
Sanjay Bhargava, president, Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyapar Mandal, said that they are ready to open shops from June 1. The traders here had voluntarily decided to shut the market till May 31.“Instead of odd-even, the government must go for staggered timings for wholesale and retail markets. The wholesale markets could open in the first half while retail could open later in the day and remain open till around 8pm. This will help maintain social distancing and order in the markets,” said Bhargava.