Shopkeepers in Mumbai have been reeling under the lockdown restrictions for two months now. And the fresh guidelines for the fourth phase of the lockdown has only added to their troubles.
As per the fresh set of rules for Lockdown 4.0, the e-commerce sites have been allowed to operate in Mumbai while shops remain closed.
As the city is dealing with the worst Covid-19 outbreak in the country, the state government has given the local authorities power to determine whether the local shops can open or not. And they have decided to keep shops shut, autos and taxis off-road and street hawkers are not allowed as well.
Badrunisa Sheikh’s husband used to set up his cloth shop on the streets of Mumbai. But because of the lockdown, there has been no income and the entire family of six depends on the ration being provided by the government. “We have lived our lives on the footpath. If we could set up our street-side shop again then we would not have to depend on the kindness of people helping us. I am sure the government is trying its best to control the situation,” says Badrunisa Sheikh.
Andheri Kurla was once one of the most difficult to cruise through as it was teeming with pedestrians, hawkers and vehicles, now the lockdown has left it barren.
It looks decrepit but many hawkers have their stalls still in place, hoping that the lockdown will end at some point. This is where Badrunisa Sheikh’s husband had a shop and this is where 55-year-old Indrajeet Chaurasia too ran a pan beedi shop.
On this road, a little further away, his wife used to have a cloth shop. Both have shut shop and have no source of income to feed a family of seven people. “Policemen closed my pan shop on March 18 and my wife’s shop was closed on March 20. Since then, both of us have been home and there is no work. Sometimes, I feel I should also leave for the village. But there is no work in the village as well. So we are living at the mercy of organisation that have been giving us some food here,” says Chaurasia.
Just outside Chaurasia’s house, there is an ice cream cart gathering dust. Shutters of many shops are down and locked. People in the area inform that many of these hawkers have left for their villages. “With no income in the city and high rents to pay, many hawkers have already left for their villages. Almost 80 per cent of our hawkers have already left. Just 20 per cent are left and they are somehow managing,” says Jaishankar Singh, advisor to Azad Hawkers Union.
Sandip Sawant, 45, has been volunteering with the local groups to feed the poor. But his own financial problems have been worrying him. He ran a lamination shop near the Andheri pump house. Sandip has a rent of Rs 12,000 that he has to pay for the shop. He has already missed giving his rent for May and does not know how to pay his June rent if shops do not open soon. “I have two employees and a family of four to look after. On top of that, I have rent. I have no idea how I will pay without any income for the last two months. If the government lets shops open, then we will make sure that social distancing is maintained,” says Sawant.
In Mumbai, as yet only grocery and medical stores are open. But with E-commerce companies being allowed to function. Shop owners feel that they will lose out on large businesses that would have helped them overcome the lockdown heat.
Viren Shah, President of Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association says, “3.5 lakh shopkeepers are members of our association and our business is zero for the last two months. Letting e-commerce companies trade in non-essential and not letting us open up is not right. We will be immensely affected by this move. E-commerce should also be restricted to only essential goods in cities like Mumbai.”