Rai: Shops set to reopen from Monday amid a host of concerns like manpower, commuting

New Delhi: As non-essential standalone shops are set to open from Monday, traders are elated that they can finally restart their work, but it will be far from business as usual due to concerns like availability of staff and commuting restrictions during the lockdown period.

Many trade bodies are also seeking clarity from local authorities on the easing of restrictions as they say there is a “confusion” over what constitutes a neighbourhood shop and a standalone shop.

Delhi has been under a coronavirus-forced lockdown since March 23. In its latest guidelines issued on Friday, the Centre extended the lockdown until May 17, but relaxed the curbs.

Shops in urban areas for non-essential goods are not allowed in malls, markets and market complexes. However, all standalone (single) shops, neighbourhood (colony) shops and shops in residential complexes are permitted to remain open in urban areas, without any distinction of essential and non-essential.

Movement of all non-essential activities are also not allowed between 7pm to 7 am.

Ramchander Yadav, who runs an electric shop in Burari, said the main problem for people like him is lack of manpower to run their business.

Yadav employs 12-13 people in his shop, but all of them stay in distant places within the national capital and cannot commute because there is no public transport.

“I have not opened my shop for over 42 days. In next few days, I will face difficulties as I don’t have workers. I will have to work with 33 per cent staff,” Yadav said.

Faridabad resident Ritika Khan, who owns a designer boutique in CR Park, said she wants to open her shop but cannot do so as she does not have a curfew pass. The satellite cities of Faridabad and Gurgaon have sealed their borders.

Khan said even if she opens her shop, she has to curtail the timings.

“Earlier we used to keep the shop open till 8:30 PM, now we will be open only till 7 PM. Besides the usual hygiene and precautionary measures, I have decided to ask my clients to come to the shop on an appointment basis, so that there aren’t a lot of people in the shop at a single point of time,” she said.

Nikhil Gupta, who owns a kitchenware shop in Pandav Nagar, said he is planning to start his work from tomorrow, but is worried as he gets most of his customers during the evening hours.

Shops are being allowed to open from 7 AM to 7 PM.

Gupta said that he will have to arrange masks and sanitizers for his staff and educate them about social distancing.

“We are also planning to use posters to request customers to use masks, observe social distancing and take other precautions to avoid infection,” he said.

Nishant Pareek, whose father runs an electrical shop in Dilshad Colony, said although shops are opening from Monday, it cannot be business as usual as the lockdown has been extended till May 17.

“From Monday, the shops will be opened and we are hoping that the business would get back as soon as possible. Till now, we have been surviving on our savings. The situation will come back on track only gradually,” Pareek said.

For Pramod Sharma, who runs a garments shop in Laxmi Nagar, the first priority is to complete the renovation work he had undertaken.

“I will focus on finishing the remaining construction work. Measures like use of masks and sanitisers and social distancing also need to be adopted once the shop is fully functional,” he said.

Most of the major shopping hubs like the Connaught Place and Khan Market will remain closed as per the guidelines of the Union Home Ministry.

“We are a commercial hub, so we will not be opening. Neither the government restrictions allow that nor it is safe. We will see how the experiment goes for small markets and shops and we will open only when it’s completely safe,” Atul Bhargava, President, New Delhi Traders Association (NDTA) said.

The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) said there is confusion about the guidelines.

“The traders will be in a dilemma,” CAIT Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal said, adding there is “lack of clarity over what constitutes a neighbourhood shop and a standalone shop”.

He asserted that the “clarification should come from the right quarters. Not only the Centre, it is the duty of the state governments to issue that clarification because most of the issues are under the domain of the state governments. The law enforcement authorities also function as per their directives.”

Retailers Association of India (RAI) said that what constitutes market places could be misinterpreted.

Organised retailers such as Future Group and V-Mart Retail said they are also seeking permissions from local authorities.

“Some parts of the businesses will reopen. What we see is that there is the possibility of opening of some standalone stores…We will open wherever we can and we will talk to the local authorities to open. We will have to see how it works out.

“In any case individual states will have to come out with clear guidelines. While some states have come out with the guidelines but they are the same as what Centre has said. I think the states are also confused and they are printing the same thing that Centre is sending,” RAI CEO Kumar Rajagopalan said.

All 11 districts of Delhi have been designated as red-zones.

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