MUMBAI: Common householders, retailers and traders are anxious over the state government’s decision to restrict the timings of shops from 7.00-11.00am. They point out that crowds may, in fact, explode during these hours unlike previously when footfalls were dispersed through the day. Police may find it difficult to manage the numbers.
Citizens fear they will have to wait in multiple queues at different stores for milk, groceries and vegetables. “My wife and I both have recovered from Covid-19. Is it feasible to spend the morning hours lining up for daily essentials each day? At least earlier we headed out in the afternoon when no crowds were present. And what if some infected person breaks home quarantine to join the queue?” said a retired government servant from Veera Desai Road, Andheri.
And although home delivery has been permitted till 8.00pm, shopkeepers say they will stop catering to small value orders. “In any case with three delivery boys, we only sent orders worth upwards of Rs 150-200. Now the exodus of labour from the city has caused a shortage of manpower, making home delivery difficult and not cost effective. Two of my five workers have gone home to the village, leaving just three to handle supplies, cash counter and delivery,” said a grocer in Four Bungalows, Andheri.
Retailers’ federation president Viren Shah questioned the wisdom of having to summon staff for only four hours a day. Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO of the Retailers Association of India (RAI), said, “Restricting timing may lead to crowding, which is a health risk. It may result in operational challenges, supply chain issues, panic buying and hoarding of essential commodities. Citizens also need clothing, hardware, electrical, household, kitchen items. We have appealed to the state government to permit all non-food retailers to do home delivery.”
Brij Narayan Sahu, a vada pav vendor in Kandivli said, “Moreover, the government seems to have forgotten that the existing night curfew is in force till 7.00am. So bread and egg vendors, vegetable sellers, and other roadside vendors like me cannot even source raw material before that. By the time we start stocking up for the day and set up shop, it will be 8.00-8.30am. That effectively gives us three hours to operate. What was wrong with the earlier parcel-only order? We dispensed so fast.”
The daily evolving norms make room for corruption by implementing authorities too. “It will take much to convince me that we can curb corona virus by grouping people together during concentrated hours. Night curfew also made little sense. It only helped police make a quick buck,” said Shailesh Pawar, a vendor in Khar.