The retail sector, which was one of the worst affected by the pandemic, has questioned the Government’s rationale behind imposing weekend curfew. Representatives, instead, urged the Government to allow retailers to remain open for business with adherence to COVID-appropriate behaviour (CAB) instead of a lockdown.
“Does the virus spread only during night time and weekends? Why should we shut down our businesses when political rallies with thousands are being allowed?”These were the two common refrains in the industry.
Many trade bodies, including the Karnataka chapters of Retailers Association of India (RAI) and National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), have petitioned the State Government to reconsider the weekend curfew and instead focus on enforcing CAB. RAI has urged the Chief Minister to consider new criteria for restrictions. RAI argued that the number of hospitalisations should be the criterion for the kind of restrictions imposed because of the pressure it puts on the healthcare system. It pointed to reports stating that the Omicron strain did not cause severe illnesses and there were fewer hospitalisations when compared to previous strains.
Trade associations in the city have been trying to lobby with the government to repeal weekend curfew. Senior trade activist from Chickpet, the wholesale hub of the city, Sajjan Raj Mehta said most markets in the city did over 60% of their business during the weekends and closing them down would adversely affect an already bleeding sector.
Mohammed Nazin, Vice President, Bangalore Commercial Association, agreed. “Commercial Street is already wearing a deserted look. Restrictions by the Government have a chilling effect and people do not venture out even on weekdays,” he said.
A mall owner who did not wish to be named said that by closing down malls on weekends and opening them on weekdays they would probably incur more losses than shutting them down completely.
However, a senior civic official said the arguments made by traders, mall owners and shopping hubs in the city that the bulk of their business happens on weekends, substantiates the rationale why the city needs a weekend curfew.
Ajay Nagarajan, CEO, Windmills pub, said the industry had seen some green shoots since November and the Omicron scare and restrictions that followed suit have ruined it. “The industry has suffered for 20 months now and won’t survive another bout of lockdown. Many establishments will shut down, leading to loss of business and jobs,” he said, adding that the NRAI had appealed to the Government to allow them to function with 50% occupancy even during weekends, but was not very hopeful.
Chandrashekhar Hebbar, President, Karnataka Regional Hotel and Restaurants Association, said that 50% occupancy during weekdays and only take aways during weekends will essentially make several establishments unviable. “This will lead to large scale job losses and several establishments will shut down permanently,” he said. KPCC president D. K. Shivakumar has written to chief minister Basavaraj Bommai arguing for allowing the hospitality industry to function normally during weekends.
‘Allow MSME workers to use BMTC services’
The Karnataka Small Scale Industries Association on Thursday appealed to the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation to permit those working in micro and small scale industries to use city bus services.
In a press release on Thursday, KASSIA said, “The BMTC statement mentions employees working in exempted industries and establishments as per government guidelines.” It appealed to the BMTC officials to extend the service to all employees working in MSEs on production of valid IDs as most of the workforce cannot afford to travel by taxis and auto-rickshaws.
KASSIA also requested BMTC to ply more buses in industrial areas.