Business not as usual for Delhi malls, markets on day one of unlock; traders hope for better footfall in coming days

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By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: The markets and malls in the national capital wore a deserted look with only a few shops opening and fewer customers turning up on day one of reopening after the Covid-induced lockdown on Monday. 

After a lockdown of over a month in view of the aggressive second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Delhi government has announced partial relaxation in the lockdown and reopening of markets, standalone shops and malls on odd-even basis.

Popular markets like Sarojini Nagar, Lajpat Nagar, Connaught Place, Ambience Mall, DLF, Ansal Plaza, etc saw only 15 to 20 per cent customers as compared to the usual days.

However, wine and liquor shops saw decent crowds.

While in few markets, the odd-even rule was not followed for reopening shops, at other places, traders were confused on how to implement the rule. 

“It is day one and the markets have been opened on odd-even formula so there is no crowd. Sarojini Nagar, which used to see thousands of people, saw only 10-15 per cent of people. Whatever the government is doing is for the safety of people and we respect their decision,” said Ashok Randhawa, president of Sarojini Nagar Market Association. 

“The government should tell us the definition of standalone stores. While CP has standalone stores yet we have been asked to follow odd-even rule. Staff are having great difficulty if they do not have any identity cards. This scheme should not be implemented in CP as we have ample space for maintaining social distancing. There should be two different policies for retail and wholesale markets,” said Atul Bhargava, president of the New Delhi Traders Association (NDTA).  

The customers were seen following Covid protocols like wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.

“As soon as I returned to Delhi from Hyderabad, the lockdown was imposed. I could not carry much luggage with me. So, I came to Sarojini because I had to purchase summer clothes,” said Amani who stays in South Extension. 

While in few markets, the odd-even rule was not followed for reopening shops, at other places, traders were confused on how to implement the rule.

Less shops opened in few major markets where Monday is the weekly off during normal conditions.

Shopkeepers could be seen cleaning and sanitising the premises while few were happy to make their first sale after a long spell of no income.

According to Brijesh Goyal, Chairman of Chamber of Trade and Industry, there were some doubts about the odd-even in old Delhi markets like Chandni Chowk, Kashmere Gate, Chawri Bazar and Sadar Bazar because there are many shops with the same number.

“We told the shopkeepers that they should mark the shops at their level and allot numbers on the shops,” he said.

Goyal said the shopkeepers spent the whole day on cleanliness, handling of goods etc and business was negligible.

Atul Bhargav, president of New Delhi Traders Association representing shop owners in Connaught Place, said all arrangements were in place to ensure Covid-appropriate behaviour.

“However, the odd-even formula for opening retail shops is against our interests. We have enough space here in Connaught Place and most of the shopkeepers and their employees have already got the jabs. The government should treat retail and wholesale sectors differently,” Bhargav said.

There was a long queue at a liquor vend in Delhi’s Gole market and authorities had to close the shop after they found that social distancing norms were not maintained.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (South) R Meena took a round around the main markets in the area on Monday morning to review the situation and also interacted with shopkeepers and representatives of Market Welfare Associations, urging them to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour.

“Our staff have been deployed at the entry and exit barricades. Sanitisers have been provided and markings have been done to ensure social distancing is maintained. Thermal screenings will also be done at the entry points and only limited number of people will be allowed entry at a time,” the senior police officer said.

Most of the shops at Surajmal Vihar market were closed.

The situation at the Cross River Mall was similar.

“The business will come on track, but it will take time as compared to last year. The situation this year is quite different. The casualties were much higher than the last year. We just hope that the business would come back to track as soon as possible,” said Happy Singh, who runs a gift shop at Surajmal Vihar market.

Vikas Kumar, who runs a mobile accessories at Cross River Mall, said he received a call from the mall authorities that they can open the shop.

“I have received a call from the mall authorities that I can open my shop from today. I run a small shop inside the mall. Today, it seems like the day will be spent on cleaning the counter. We hope that the situation would get better in future,” Kumar said.

While many shops with odd numbers in Lajpat Nagar slowly opened their outlets on Monday, there were several others who chose to wait for a few more days to monitor the situation to finally restart their business.

Sixty-year-old Kujeet Singh, whose family has been running “Classik Electronics” at the central market for the last 35 years, said his shop has been allotted number 25, so it’s an odd day but he is not looking to start his sales for at least two more days.

Fifty-two-year-old Mohit Verma, who is into clothing business was happy to welcome his first customer of the day who bought a kurta.

“Usually, we used to set up our shops by 9.30 am but today, the scene is quite different. I have just had one customer since morning but I am hopeful that customers would start coming in slowly in the coming days,” he said.

Deepak Arora, whose small shop sees women crowding for artificial jewellery and fancy items said “Usually, we open it by 10 am and close our shop around 8 pm but today as we restarted, it seems like we will just clean our products, santitise them and may be start our business in the coming days.

There are hardly any customers and if this remains the situation, then I’m planning to shut my shop by 5 pm”.

The JMD Kohinoor mall in GK saw a disproportionately high foot fall at the liquor store within the premises.

People could be seen standing in queue that stretched till outside of the mall.

The mall as well as the liquor shop staff ensured that social distancing norms were not flouted by allowing small groups within the shop at a time.

(With PTI Inputs)



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