Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray said all workplaces in major cities in the state, including Mumbai and Pune, will remain closed till March 31.
Even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the nation on Thursday refrained from announcing a nationwide lock-down of businesses, trade and workplaces in response to the growing Covid-19 crisis, India’s two largest cities – Mumbai and Delhi — on Friday moved closer to a state of wholesale cessation of such activities to facilitate social distancing.
Also evident is a trend of sections of consumers and small traders keeping out from the agricultural and other markets, but no concrete proof was yet available of large-scale hoarding or stepped up purchases of essentials by households in anticipation of a prolonged market lock-down.
Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said all workplaces in major cities in the state, including Mumbai and Pune, will remain closed till March 31.The shutdown will be applicable in Mumbai, Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Pune, Pimpri Chinchwad and Nagpur. Government offices in the state will operate at 25% attendance. Thackeray, however, ruled out shutting down public transport in Mumbai, saying it was the city’s lifeline.
The Delhi government on Friday ordered immediate closure of all malls and haat bazaars in the national capital, but exempted grocery stores and pharmacies in them. All the haats at INA, Pitampura and Janakpuri have been closed, along with the state tourism department’s Hop on Hop off (HoHo) bus services. Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted ‘all non-essential public dealing activities’ will be stopped till March 31.
However, the Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board said 290 of the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis in the state continued to function as normal on Friday, while 16 such markets are shut for reasons other than Covid-19, including weekly holidays.
Maharashtra so far has 52 coronavirus positive cases, while one Covid-19 patient died in Mumbai this week. In a televised address, Thackeray said only essential services will remain open which include food, milk and medicines; banks will remain functional too. “The trains and buses are the city’s lifeline and cannot be stopped. I have been advised to take this step. But doing this will affect movement of those working in places which provide essential services to the city,” he said.
Vashi – the country’s largest wholesale market – was open on Friday with 2,200 vehicles transporting vegetables, fruits, onion and potatoes and food grains. The market, which shut on Thursday for disinfection purposes, will remain open on Saturday and but shut on Sunday due to the weekly holiday and the Janata Curfew announced by Modi. The market will remain shut on March 23 due to Mathadi workers celebrations and a call will be taken on Monday on further precautionary measures to be taken, Sanjay Pansare, president, Fruits and Vegetables Association, told FE.
The Pimpri Chinchwad (PC) industrial belt in Maharashtra with the largest concentration of medium and small industries in the country is heading for a lock-down. The PC Municipal Corporation (PCMC) area has reported the largest number of coronavirus positive cases (12). Rising cases and fear of further spread on Friday led the PCMC municipal corporation to appeal to industry to voluntarily shut down for 20 days or at least till March 31. The municipal commissioner had a con-call with 30 industry representatives on Friday. The industry has sought time to gradually scale down operations and wanted some industries to be exempted or allowed skeletal team to keep some operations running. The industry said they would wait for written orders from the district administration and then start voluntary shutdown to the maximum extent possible.
Balasaheb Deshmukh, chief administrator at Pune APMC, said that the market remained open on Friday although some sections of traders selling vegetables had called for a closure. The market will also be open on Saturday but shut down on Sunday due to the weekly holiday, he said. Deshmukh said consumers and small traders were keeping away due to coronavirus fears. About 20% of the arrivals were unsold on Friday since consumers have stocked for the next 15 days in anticipation of a shutdown, he said.
Sunil Pawar, MD, MSAMB, said that although all the wholesale markets are running, small retailers and hawkers are not coming to the market for buying. Sunday has been declared as a lockdown by the Prime Minister himself and it remains to be seen whether transporters will be part of the shutdown. This could disrupt the supply chain, senior officials said. Moreover since restaurants, canteens, food mess, joints and eateries are shut, the number of buyers has dropped drastically, officials said.
The wholesale onion market in Nashik also functioned as usual. At Latur, a key pulse growing region in the state, the market functioned normally. Lalitbhai Shah, chairman, Latur APMC, said that farmers were coming to the market because they needed money for the upcoming Gudi Padwa festival on March 25.
(with PTI inputs)