With Covid-19 cases rising rapidly in the national Capital, a majority of Delhi’s traders said they favoured shutting down all markets. In an online poll, conducted by the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) of 2,800 associations and members representing over 1.5 million traders in Delhi, over 88 per cent favoured closure of markets to stop Covid-19’s spread among traders and customers.
CAIT has now sought the government’s view on this. The move comes after a large number of Delhi’s traders and trade associations voiced concerns over the rise in cases in the city. According to CAIT, a whopping 99.4 per cent were concerned about the pandemic’s spread, and 96.6 per cent said they were worried about the spread at marketplaces. The Delhi-headquartered organisation has approached Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, and urged them to shut markets in Delhi.
According to Vipin Ahuja, president of CAIT’s Delhi chapter, the association will take a call on the matter on Sunday. “The current situation of in Delhi is very alarming and closure of markets is a big and important issue and as such, a consultation is needed with all market associations and CAIT is willing to join hands with the government to combat Covid-19 in an effective manner,” he said.
While stores selling essential commodities were open through the more stringent phases of the lockdown — between late March and mid-May — a majority of outlets opened only after May 17.
However, CAIT’s survey revealed that most markets in Delhi were seeing only 5 -10 per cent of normal business as customers stayed away and there was a shortage of staff.
“Closing down markets in the capital has huge implications not only for local traders, but it also sets a precedent for other cities. Thus, we want to take a final call only after consultation with the authorities. We hope to hear from them before we hold our meeting tomorrow (Sunday),” Praveen Khandelwal, national secretary general of CAIT, told Business Standard. However, the economic impact of such a closure remains a concern. In a representation to the Delhi government, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), suggested several measures, including an economic package worth Rs 87,500 crore or 10 per cent of Delhi’s gross state domestic product. For worst hit industries, including trade and hospitality, it sought reduction of stamp duty to 0.5 per cent for the next 4 months, automatic renewal of licences for a year, a six-month extension of all state levies and taxes without attracting any interests and soft loans for small businesses.
Referring to the Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia’s recent statement that around 530,000 residents of the city are expected to be Covid-19 positive by July end, CAIT stressed the need for measures to break the chain.
“Such a statement has caused a huge stir and immense fear and panic among the markets and citizens of Delhi. The Supreme Court has also expressed concerns over the ‘horrendous, horrific and pathetic’ state of affairs in Delhi. The apex court has also taken serious cognizance of reduction in number of tests being performed daily,” Khandelwal said in the letter to Baijal. He also raised the issue of scarcity of beds in Delhi hospitals.
“In the wake of this, traders have become more fearful than before. This compelled CAIT to carry out a survey of Delhi traders representing various markets and trade associations. The results of the survey seem to be completely one sided as over 90 per cent of the respondents have expressed utmost fear, insecurity and uncertainty,” he informed the LG.