Traders down shutters, feel the heat as Delhi border blockade continues
As thousands of farmers continued to camp on Delhi’s borders demanding the withdrawal of the three farm laws passed in September, traders and shopkeepers around the protest sites have expressed concerns over the mounting losses and said the government should intervene to resolve the impasse at the earliest.
Rampal, a motor mechanic whose workshop is located next to the protest site at the Singhu border, said he has been working on machines he got before the protests began and his new customers are only the farmers. “I have decided not to take any money from them. In fact, I leave my shop open through the night and go home so that if any farmer needs to use the tools, they do not have to return disappointed,” he said.
Ajeet, who sells snacks and soft drinks at the Singhu border, said his daily business has shrunk to Rs 2,000-3,000 from Rs 10-15,000. “If this continues for long, how will we pay the rent this month? The farmers are protesting for their cause and we should not bear the brunt. The government should immediately break this deadlock,” he said.
Most businesses around Rampal’s workshop and Ajeet’s shop have remained closed for days. These include banks, alcohol shops, offices of property dealers, restaurants and outlets that do not cater to the farmers.
Shyam Singh, the chief caretaker of Cost To Cost, an outlet selling branded clothes and electronic goods, said that most employees have been sent on leave. The outlet has placed a large hoarding outside its gates to ensure outsiders do not get a view of the premises. “We live in constant fear of the protests turning violent, but fortunately nothing has happened after the first day,” he said.
Among businesses that have remained open are primarily small eateries and those catering to farmers’ needs.
The scene is quite similar at the Tikri border. There are six fuel stations around the protest site and though they have remained open, there are hardly any sales. Neeraj Verma, an employee at a petrol pump in Tikri, said the only customers he receives are farmers themselves or local motorcyclists managing to find their way to the station.
A showroom of Maruti Suzuki has remained closed since day one of the protests. “Cars have been promised to customers but they are not able to take delivery,” said Bhupender Negi, a cashier at the showroom.
Near the Tikri protest site is the busy Hira Market. Shops in one row are in Delhi and those on the opposite side are in Haryana. Businesses on both sides have suffered.
Tarun Gupta, a grocery wholesaler, said he had just begun recovering from the losses incurred during the Covid-19 lockdown when his business was jolted again. “We hear that farmers intend to stay here for months. We will be destroyed. My business is just 10% of what it was before the protests,” said Gupta.
Right across his shop, a garments store is getting customers—mostly farmers. “Earlier we would get customers travelling on the highway. Now, only those on motorcycles or on foot are able to access our shop. People are worried about venturing into this market,” said Rahul Mishra, an employee at the store.
“When we fell short of essential items, these shopkeepers stood for us. We wish our protest did not harm these businesses, but the government would not agree to our demands otherwise,” said Hardeep Singh, a farmer. He said he would take back some clothes home as “mementos”.
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