Traders and shopkeepers of popular markets including Sarojini Nagar, Lajpat Nagar, Chandini Chowk, and Sadar Bazaar said their businesses are taking a hit due to the odd-even regulation being imposed, amid a sharp spike in Covid cases, and are apprehensive that a complete lockdown will be next.
Pointing to huge financial losses and unemployment that this will bring, traders and markets associations have instead requested the Delhi government to strengthen the enforcement drive to remove illegal hawkers, and to control the crowd.
“We traders and shopkeepers wait for December and January since sales go up due to festive seasons and arrival of winter. The stock of winter clothes has arrived, and the wedding season is about to begin. However, the odd-even regulation means a complete loss for us and the staff whose lives are completely dependent on these sales. Amidst the rise in cases, we all are worried that lockdown will be imposed by the end of this week,” said Ashok Randhawa, president of the Sarojini Nagar Mini Market Association.
Randhawa said the odd-even scheme will not help in crowd management until the government and the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) vacate illegal encroachments and hawkers: “There are about 2,500 illegal hawkers who are the main reason for overcrowding. We are not against Covid guidelines, but stakeholders should be consulted before decisions are made. Out of six entry gates, only three are open. Enforcement officials should issue more challans and sensitise people to wear masks and maintain social distancing because shopkeepers can only regulate customers in his shop and not on the streets.”
Atul Bhargava, president of the New Delhi Traders Association, reiterated the same: “The odd-even scheme has not reduced the crowd and will not decrease the number of cases. It is a farce, and we are completely against it. Rather than controlling the crowd on roads and streets, they are putting the onus on us. We are the ones suffering from this time and again. Last time too, traders suffered a lot. We pay taxes, GST, and excise duty and when the time comes, nobody is there to help us. After almost two years, business started picking up. We thought we will recover some losses. But now they impose this scheme.”
Raising their concerns, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) wrote a letter to Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal regarding the Covid restrictions and odd-even rule.
“Odd-even regulation is not practical and extremely irrelevant. In fact, it only causes extreme inconvenience to the public at large. If consumers want to purchase two different products and those goods are dealt with by shopkeepers having odd and even numbers, the consumers will have to visit the market on both days. Instead of curbing movement of people, it only causes them to move out more frequently,” said Praveen Khandelwal, Secretary-General, CAIT.
The traders’ association suggested that the government should come up with a plan to divide the markets into different zones and fix different timings for each market. The CAIT also demanded the operation of banquet halls at 50% capacity.