Maharashtra to lift curbs on shop timings in districts with low positivity rate

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

In a measure of relief to Maharashtra’s retailers and shop owners reeling under heavy economic losses due to the pandemic, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Monday said the hitherto curtailed shop timings would be extended till 8 p.m. in districts with a low case positivity rate.

Mr. Thackeray, who was visiting rain-battered Sangli district in western Maharashtra, said an official order would be issued extending the timings from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The Chief Minister’s statement comes a day after the Pune Chamber of Commerce, stating that repeated lockdowns had left traders and shopkeepers in dire economic straits, had threatened that it would keep all shops open till 7 p.m. from August 4 onwards in defiance of pandemic regulations.

Lethality of the second wave

“While I am sympathetic to the plight of traders and shopkeepers, I am not going to be scared off by such threats…let me remind of the lethality of the second wave and the grave oxygen crisis a month ago. The State has a capacity of producing only 1,200-1,300 metric tonne (MT) oxygen. At the peak of the second wave, we faced a massive shortage of 500 MT shortage…fulfilling this deficit had proven arduous and we could secure oxygen from neighbouring States with great difficulty,” said Mr. Thackeray.

The Chief Minister warned that the Centre, too, had advised stringent adherence to regulations if a third wave was to be averted.

“In the event the third wave strikes, we might be staring in the face of a severe oxygen shortage, and procuring the same from neighbouring States will not be easy…so, while shop timings twill be extended till 8 p.m. in places where cases are in check, rules would not change in districts where cases and fatalities are still high,” Mr. Thackeray said.

Earlier, the Pune Chamber of Commerce had complained that the State government had not lifted the restrictions despite the number of cases in Pune city steadily declining.

Economic depression

“There is huge dissatisfaction within the business community as a result. Consecutive lockdowns since the first wave and the resulting economic depression caused by this situation has led many traders to commit suicide…if Pune is in the list of places where restrictions on shop timings are to be lifted, then we welcome the decision. If not, we will keep our shops open till 7 p.m. and beyond from August 4,” said Fatehchand Ranka, president, Federation of Trade Association of Pune (FTAP).

Mr. Ranka said traders had uncomplainingly cooperated with the government thus far, despite incurring heavy losses.

“In the last one and a half years, due to complete lockdowns or mini-lockdowns, city traders have suffered staggering losses to the tune of ₹75,000 crore. Uncertainty in the business has caused many to lose their jobs, with families of traders and their employees in financial straits. E-commerce companies, on the other hand, are permitted to do a lot of other things.”

Mr. Ranka said the Pune Municipal Commissioner’s directive on Saturday mandating that no restrictions would be lifted was akin to rubbing salt into the wounds of the traders despite the promises of Guardian Minister Ajit Pawar on extending the timings.

Unscientific policies

“Unscientific policies of the local administration and the State government have made the business class worse off than the effects of the pandemic. Our federation has set up vaccination facilities at our own cost…the government has not taken any decision on vaccination of traders, employees and their families when it ought to have. Now, it cannot dictate us to keep our shops closed,” said Mr. Ranka.

Besides Pune, traders’ associations in Mumbai and Nagpur have been frequently petitioning the State government in the past month to lift restrictions on shop timings.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2021 11:42:58 AM |

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