Coronavirus: Barring Malls and Urban Market Complexes, Centre Allows All Retail Shops To Open
It is mandatory for those permitted to open to only operate with 50 per cent staff, while ensuring compulsory wearing of masks and strictly adhering to social distancing. The relaxations in restrictions are not applicable in hotspots or containment zones.
As the country is about to enter its sixth week of lockdown owing to the Coronavirus outbreak, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has allowed the opening of all registered shops, except the ones in single and multi-brand malls, starting Saturday. In an order issued to all states and union territories, the ministry asked to allow for the opening of shops in residential complexes and neighborhoods.
MHA also has made it mandatory for those permitted to open to only operate with 50 per cent of normal staff, while ensuring compulsory wearing of masks and strictly adhering to social distancing. The relaxations in restrictions are not applicable in hotspots or containment zones.
The decision by the Centre comes on the heels of Akshaya Tritiya, the annual springtime festival of Hindus and Jains, and the beginning of Ramzan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims.
Wait and Watch
While welcoming the order, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) appealed to traders across the country to not open the shops “in their extreme enthusiasm” and wait for respective state governments to give necessary orders.
Kumar Rajagopalan of the Retailers Association of India (RAI) said the industry body was willing to work with the government to make the process of opening retail easier without compromising on social distancing norms.
“Keeping in mind the current environment and lessons learnt by opening up of essential retail through the lockout, we would recommend that the government open up all channels of retail on a date that it feels safe with the social distancing norms clearly defined,” said Rajagopalan.
CAIT national president BC Bhartia and secretary general Praveen Khandelwal also stressed on necessary steps that need to be taken in terms of sanitization before shops are opened.
“It is necessary that shops and markets are properly sanitized and therefore the central government should make a clear plan immediately and advise all the state governments to take necessary steps for sanitising the markets and the shops,” Khandelwal and Bhartia said in a joint statement.
RAI’s Rajagopalan said that malls must also be allowed to open. “The malls are professionally run and they would be able (to) control the environment for safety and social distancing,” he said.
According to a clarification made by the MHA on Saturday, ecommerce companies would continue to be permitted to sell essentials only, in line with its earlier notification.
Companies such as Paytm Mall and ShopClues had then come out with statements asking for the government to expand the scope of the essential goods category.
On Friday, CAIT said it was working with the Department for Promotion of Industry & Internal Trade (DPIIT) to launch a nationwide ecommerce marketplace to help local Kirana stores take orders online and ensure last-mile contactless delivery. Beside DPIIT and CAIT, other promoters of the initiative include Startup India, Invest India, All India Consumer Products Distributors Federation and Avaana Capital.
CAIT has been a long-time critic of ecommerce giants such as Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart, blaming them of predatory policies that harm small- and medium-sized traders.