With Covid-19 cases spiking, traders suspend business in north Bengal’s biggest town
With the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) affecting more and more people in West Bengal’s hill district of Darjeeling, traders in Siliguri, the district’s biggest town located in the plains, on Monday decided to shut down three major markets for at least a week.
This will affect people not only in the town but also neighbouring districts and even states such as Sikkim since Siliguri is the main trade hub and shipping point in the north Bengal region. Goods from Siliguri are shipped to Bihar and the North-East as well.
So far, five people have died in Darjeeling district where the number of Covid-19 cases stood at 296 till Sunday. Siliguri has so far recorded more than 170 cases. Sunday witnessed the highest single-day spike in the town with 25 new cases. Fourteen cases were recorded on Monday.
Incidentally, Siliguri Regulated Market, the largest fish, vegetable and fruit market in north Bengal was closed down by the administration more than a week ago after some people who regularly visited the market were infected. Ward number 46 in Siliguri Municipal Corporation area, where the market is located, has the highest number of Covid-19 cases.
Most of the fish, vegetable and fruit sold in the market are shipped to Darjeeling hills, Sikkim and other parts of north Bengal.
On Monday, traders at Bidhan Market, the biggest general goods market in Siliguri with around 4,000 shops, decided to suspend business till June 28. Their counterparts at the jewellery market in Deshbandu Para will keep shops closed till June 30. Hong Kong Market, the hub of foreign goods principally of Chinese origin and having around 500 shops, will remain closed till June 30, the traders said.
Bhabotosh Saha, secretary of the Hong Kong Market traders’ body said, “The rise in Covid-19 cases has forced us to close the market for eight days. The spike is alarming people.”
A few days ago, two local journalists, veteran Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader and former minister Asok Bhattacharya, who is chairman of board of administrators of the municipal corporation, and Raju Shah, general secretary of Bharatiya Janata Party’s Siliguri organisational district committee, tested positive for the coronavirus disease.
Bapi Saha, secretary of the traders’ body at Bidhan Market said, “With 20 cases being reported a day on an average it is better to have fewer people on the streets.”
Traders at Seth Srilal Market, however, are opposed to the suspending business. Khokan Saha, secretary of the traders’ union, said, “Another shutdown would mean another blow to business.” The market has around 1,000 shops.
Surajit Paul, secretary, North Bengal Industries Association said, “Closing down markets is not the solution when we need economic activities to increase.”
Last week, 16 trade and transport organisations in Darjeeling town had decided to suspend business for a week but called it off after meeting district administration officials.