Omicron: Arvind Kejriwal govt’s odd-even system angers retailers, shop owners

Ease of Doing Business for MSMEs: The curbs have been announced as the Covid positivity rate in Delhi has increased beyond 0.5 per cent or level –1, also known as the yellow alert under the government’s Covid Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP).

The positivity rate for Delhi on Tuesday stood at 0.89 per cent. (Image: Express photo by Amil Bhatnagar)

Ease of Doing Business for MSMEs: Traders and shop owners in Delhi are fuming over the Covid-related curbs announced by the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government on Tuesday. Recovering from the second wave of the pandemic, retailers fear heavy losses and working capital crisis in the coming days. Kejriwal declared a ‘yellow alert’ in the capital with immediate effect amid a surge in Omicron cases. Among the guidelines issued, malls and shops are allowed to operate only on an odd-even basis, between 10 am and 8 pm. Restaurants will operate at half capacity and will have to close at 10 pm. Weddings are allowed with up to 20 people only while private offices are allowed with up to 50 per cent of the staff.

“We might see over 50 per cent loss of combined turnover of around Rs 2 crore per day from 200-odd shops due to this move by the government. The announcement has come as a surprise because traders and shop owners have been following all Covid protocols. Why should traders be penalised for someone else’s sin? The challenge is with respect to street vending and not with stores. Why the government is causing trouble to stores? How would the shops pay the rent as around 50 per cent shops are on rent. Salaries to employees and other overhead costs would also be a challenge,” Sanjeev Mehra, President, Khan Market Traders Association told Financial Express Online.

The curbs have been announced as the Covid positivity rate in Delhi has increased beyond 0.5 per cent or level –1, also known as the yellow alert under the government’s Covid Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP). The plan was notified by the government in August this year. The positivity rate for Delhi on Tuesday stood at 0.89 per cent with 496 new Covid cases and one death in the past 24 hours. The city’s active caseload was at 1,612 while Omicron cases stood at 165, as per the Health Ministry data.

“It would lead to huge losses for all shop owners who deal in winter apparel. We have around 300 shops and the impact on revenue would be more than 50 per cent. Also, since the timing is till 8 pm, shop owners would miss on business from people coming after 8 pm. We are mostly apparel market,” Murli Mani, President at Karol Bagh’s Ajmal Khan Road Vyapar Mandal told Financial Express Online.

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Last week, a video had gone viral on social media showing a stampede-like situation allegedly in Delhi’s Sarojni Nagar market where shoppers were seen flouting Covid protocols including social distancing. Traders had cited hawkers as the main reason for such situations.

“We have been urging the government to decide on such situations that are caused due to hawkers in the market. Shops follow Covid protocols but the problem is on the streets. How would you ensure shoppers follow Covid-appropriate behaviour. Delhi government should ensure through home guards that social distancing is maintained. Mask is not the only solution. We are expecting around 20-25 per cent business loss for the market on a daily basis,” Sanjeev Madan, President, Lajpat Nagar Market Association told Financial Express Online. 

Traders’ body Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) also issued a statement on Tuesday calling the odd-even move by the government absurd.

“This will not reduce the rising cases of Omicron or Covid. On the contrary, traders and customers will have to face huge problems…It is extremely necessary that the Delhi government, instead of operating the markets on a complete lockdown or on the odd-even system, must come up with ways and means to encourage and motivate people to adopt the Covid safety protocol,” said Praveen Khandelwal, Secretary General, CAIT.

This story was originally published on December 28, 2021

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