Delhi

Coronavirus | Stricter enforcing of guidelines forces weddings in Delhi to become smaller

People throng Sadar Bazar for Deepavali shopping; a groom during a wedding procession in the Capital.   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

Weddings have become smaller. Social distancing norms are being enforced rigorously in congested city markets. The enforcement of ₹2,000 fine for protocol violations, after an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases, could not have been timelier.

According to Delhi Police, close to 2,000 people were issued fines ranging from ₹500 to ₹2,000 over the past week. The maximum prosecution for COVID-19 offences, with a total of 1,501 fines, was issued on November 22. Each fine amounted to ₹500. Since these were upped to ₹2,000, 1,474 individuals were issued challans, according to police data.

Intimate proceedings

Curbs on the number of people allowed at gatherings have made weddings more intimate affairs. Having invited nearly 200 guests as per previous guidelines, before it was reduced to 50 as per the new norms, some complained they were forced to book adjacent venues to accommodate everyone on their original guest list. Some of them complained they were forced to apologise to relatives for retracting invites.

Rahul Puri, multi-property general manager at The Westin, says the hotel has to continually adapt to local regulations in response to COVID-19 but weddings are being celebrated with enthusiasm in completely different ways. The wedding segment, he says, has been key in driving revenues and helping recovery.

“The big fat wedding has given way to intimate weddings, adhering to social distancing norms. As weddings become smaller affairs, quality in weddings has become even more important with precautionary measures like contact-less serving of dishes, spacing, larger tables with less chairs and designated servers for every dish,” says Mr. Puri.

Easy adapting

On whether guests are adhering to COVID-19 guidelines at weddings, Mr. Puri said the guests have adapted well to the new norms and are appreciative of the measures taken to address safety and hygiene.

However, for a marketing executive employed in south Delhi, the restriction at weddings came as a bolt out of the blue. He complained of spending more time on downsizing his brother’s marriage function and apologising to relatives while retracting invites than he had on the initial arrangements.

“They [the government] should have given families like mine some notice at least. Our reputations are on the line for no fault of ours,” he complained, requesting anonymity.

“The only way for those stuck in the middle like my family is either to risk infection to invitees, including elderly relatives more susceptible to COVID-19 or to fold our hands and politely retract the invite citing the circumstances. My parents and I have been doing the latter since the decision was announced,” he said.

Others such as a publishing professional, who had booked a prominent city hotel for a wedding, complained he had to book an adjacent hall to accommodate half of the 100 invitees at the 25th hour.

“What else could we have done except postponing the whole affair? We have had to book the hall next to the one we had originally paid for at the same price, going way beyond our budget. But the hotel management was nice enough to give us a slight discount,” he said.

“Arrangements have been made to telecast the ceremony from the main hall to the other, which will mainly serve as a dinner hall. The guests in the second hall will take turns to give the bride and groom their blessings before leaving, so that only 50 people are in either hall at any given time,” he explained.

As they walk a tightrope between avoiding infection and keeping business alive, market representatives said they had put several measures in place across markets. They don’t want to lose business in an already ravaged year, wherein they have incurred massive losses during the lockdown.

Measures aplenty

At north Delhi’s bustling wholesale markets in Sadar Bazar and Chandni Chowk, at least one staff member has been deputed to sanitise customers’ hands. The number of individuals allowed inside shops is being regulated as well.

“Each of the 40,000-plus shops in the market has face masks of varying qualities which are offered to customers not wearing them free of cost as soon as they arrive. Only three people are allowed in most shops with someone from the staff attending to excess customers outside it while they wait to enter,” said Rakesh Kumar Yadav, president, Federation of Sadar Bazar Traders’ Association.

Sanjay Bhargava, president of Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyapar Mandal, said shopkeepers had decided to restrict customers without face masks from entering the premises but other issues related to the possible spread of COVID-19 still remained.

“The authorities are yet to take any action against encroachments outside shops which affect effective social distancing. Infection can be avoided by regulating entry into shops but not outside,” he complained.

At 6 p.m. on Friday, there were hundreds of people at south Delhi’s Sarojini Nagar market, but almost everyone was wearing masks and stood socially distanced. There were even boards put up by some shops, with their names on it, asking people to maintain “two meter distance”. But there were no temperature checks to enter the market, while some people were seen spitting and there was hardly any police presence.

“Around Deepavali there was a huge rush for about three to four days. Don’t know from where so many people came from,” said Jitender Sachdeva, 46, owner of Mahendra Sweet House.

Mr. Sachdeva removed tables outside the shop where people used to stand and eat. “When we had tables, people used to spend more time here and also there was a rush. Now it is better,” he said.

But the traders are also wary of their shops being shut down in case of violations. “Please limit your display outside your shops tomorrow. SDM Inspection team will visit our market tomorrow and take action against violators [sic],” read a message in one of the WhatsApp groups of the traders.

Karthik, who is the president of the market association said: “We are taking all measures to prevent the spread of the disease and the government is conducting COVID-19 tests every day in the market.”

A garment seller, he said he would allow entry to only those who want to buy clothes to avoid crowding.

(With inputs from Jaideep Deo Bhanj, Nikhil M Babu, Saurabh Trivedi and Jatin Anand)

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2021 4:06:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/caught-on-the-wrong-foot/article33207884.ece

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