Flower sellers at Chennai’s Badrain Street unfurl novel initiative to beat the novel Coronavirus

At the market. Photo: R. Ragu

At the market. Photo: R. Ragu  

Sixty-two-year-old K. Seethalakshmi, a small-time roadside flower vendor from Mint, was a couple of paces away from Badrain Street, when a trader rushed to her lickety-split and offered her an umbrella.

Seethalakshmi had a cloth mask on; and was wearing a pair of gloves. And a quaint little bottle of hand sanitiser was waltzing around in her empty cane basket as she walked towards the narrow stretch lined with shops that sell flowers by the bushels.

Perfect protection against COVID-19, wasn’t it? Not quite, going by the standards maintained on Badrain Street. Here, the protective gear isn’t complete without an umbrella.

Since July 27, when the flower traders on Badrain Street opened for business, they have been following stringent measures to ensure the novel Coronavirus does not trot along with visitors.

Before entering the street, small flower traders are subjected to thermal screening, hand sanitising; and they are offered an umbrella that has to be returned when they are done shopping.

The umbrella is meant to ensure other people stay at more than an arm’s length, and social distancing is maintained.

Retail flower traders on the stretch were allowed to open their shops by the police on condition that they ensure visitors and traders maintained social distancing.

“Badrain Street is a narrow lane, and carrying umbrellas will provide the much-needed space for people to maintain social distance. We have brought more than 1,000 umbrellas for this purpose,” says 'Pookadai' S. Venkatesan, secretary, Tamil Nadu Flowers Merchants Association.

Every day, since July 27, a posse of four traders guard one end and another group of four, the other end. They are ready, with thermometers and hand sanitisers in hand, and a stack of umbrellas by their side.

The stretch intersects with NSC Bose Road opposite the Broadway bus terminus, which has been converted into a temporary common market, and Periya Uthandi Street in George Town.

No visitors are allowed to enter the stretch without a face mask.

Each shop has a barricade to prevent buyers from coming into close contact with the traders.

Visitors who have turned up without a face mask are provided with one, free, on the condition that they would wear these masks whenever they visit Badrain Street.

Located behind Flower Bazaar police station, Badrain Street has more than 120 shops with a majority of them operated by retail flower traders.

These retail flower traders who are in the majority are carrying out business along with wholesale flower merchants on Badrain Street, and this arrangement is in place since British times.

On an average, more than 1,000 small-time flower sellers visit the stretch every day.

Among the biggest challenges faced by the retail traders in implementing the new restrictions on Badrain Street is getting the umbrellas back from the visitors. Despite the traders’ teams being observant, some visitors evade notice and make away with the umbrellas.

Nevertheless, the retail traders plan to persist with this strategy for social distancing.

“Some visitors fold the umbrellas and keep them along with the flowers in their basket. We have lost around 100 umbrellas over the past few days. Never mind, we have brought new umbrellas to replace the lost ones,” says S. Sivakumar, secretary, Badrain Street Flower Merchants Association.

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Printable version | Aug 13, 2020 7:06:47 AM |

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