Traders, residents embrace weekend at home

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Police strictly enforce weekend curfew; markets considering reduced operational timings between noon and 7 p.m.

The first day of the weekend curfew, which came into effect on Friday night, saw fewer people venturing out and strict enforcement at most locations.

While the streets of south Delhi were devoid of traffic, Delhi Police and civil defence volunteers were seen stopping vehicles at traffic lights and pickets set up on the main roads, asking for e-passes and identification from drivers as well as commuters.

Less traffic

Vehicular traffic was visibly less across the city with police personnel manning checkpoints. Vehicles bearing “COVID duty” stickers or a particular hospital’s name were allowed to sail through, though some ordinary vehicles without any such identifiers also managed to pass some checkpoints without being stopped.

The number of buses, auto rickshaws and app-based cabs were also less. At checkpoints, the passengers were questioned about why they were out on the road.

Policemen on bikes were seen patrolling the streets and questioning pedestrians on what they were doing outside. Residential colonies like Greater Kailash 1 and 2, Defence Colony and Anand Lok set up barricades at all entry points to ensure only residents could enter the colonies.

Delivery agents of food delivery apps were wearing their company T-shirts and were seen delivering from restaurants that are permitted to be open only for home delivery.

Only shops selling groceries and essentials were open, with fruit and vegetable vendors saying they did not face any issues in procuring produce from mandis in the morning.

No panic buying

Several grocers across CR Park reported low footfall. Comparing it to last year’s restrictions, the shopkeepers said people were now more equipped to handle the curbs and that buying in bulk had not yet started.

Biplab Pramanik, a shopkeeper, said: “Unlike last year, the panic among customers about the curfew is comparatively less as there were a couple of days between the announcement and the implementation. There was not much chaos this time.”

“On Saturday, we saw a small number of people come to the shops for basic items but beyond that there was not much activity. But with the cases increasing, we now need to wait and watch as to what other restrictions are imposed over the next few days,” said Mr. Pramanik.

Shopkeepers and traders in west Delhi’s Moti Nagar said that their business will be impacted because of the weekend lockdown but said they understood that this step was required. “Even during the last lockdown, we had suffered losses but this wave of cases is a lot scarier than last time,” said Girish Thakral, owners of Dayal Bakers in Moti Nagar.

He added that their shop also sells groceries and were, therefore, allowed to open. “I have applied for e-passes for my employees and will not open till they have received the permits,” he said, adding that his earnings have dipped by 30-40%.

Ganesh Market Association’s general secretary Harmeet Singh, who runs Ludhiana Woollen Industries dealing in school uniforms, said that traders have taken a hit in sales and the government has not helped them in any way.

“We have to pay renewal license, GST and other commercial taxes as well. Business or no business, there is no relief for us. But health is more important than anything else so we support the restrictions,” he said.

Representatives of a dozen city markets met to discuss the possible impact of the weekend curfew on business. The consensus was in favour of staggered or reduced operational timings at major retail markets.

Strict action

In a joint statement issued by representatives from retail markets such as Khan Market, Connaught Place, Karol Bagh, Chandni Chowk, Aurobindo Place, Lajpat Nagar and Janpath and Green Park among others, the associations demanded stricter enforcement of COVID-appropriate behaviour.

The operational timings at such markets could be between noon and 7 p.m..

The association also demanded strict action against street hawkers to break the chain of infection.

Over 150 arrested

Till 8 p.m. on Saturday, the police had arrested 164 people, registered 363 FIRs and issued 2,432 challans for violating the weekend curfew.

Delhi Police COVID helpline number received over 1,500 calls till Saturday evening. The majority of the calls related to queries pertaining to what is allowed and what is not during the night and weekend curfews, apart from issues related to difficulties in obtaining e-passes or movement passes.

(With inputs from Jaideep Deo Bhanj, Hemani Bhandari, Shinjini Ghosh, Nikhil M Babu and Jatin Anand)