To break Covid chain, chaiwalas to chambers voluntarily locking down in Gujarat

Rutam Vora Ahmedabad | Updated on April 24, 2021

The businesses are hit due to the second wave   -  The Hindu

State govt had ruled out a shutdown but imposed night curfew in 20 cities

As the government refrains from pressing the lockdown button even as Covid-19 cases soar, Gujarat’s chaiwalas and paan walas (tea-stall owners and paan shops), joined by small businesses and traders, are voluntarily shutting shop to break the chain of infection.

Gujarat added 13,105 new cases in the 24-hours ending Thursday 5 pm, with 137 deaths.

In the worst-hit cities of Ahmedabad and Surat, paan shop owners and chaiwalas are doing a weekend lockdown. “We are closing down voluntarily due to infections. Anyway, even if we open, we are forced by the authorities to shut. This is a new method being followed,” said a tea vendor at Ahmedabad’s Ambawadi area not willing to be named.

Sanjay Joshi, President of Gujarat Paan Masala Shop Owners’ Association, who had appealed to all members to observe weekend lockdown, said that all are not shutting down because of individual economic compulsions.

Closure for 2nd weekend

Similarly, the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce & Industry (GCCI) has called for “voluntary closure” of business activity by its members, including MSMEs and professionals. This is the second consecutive weekend closure, starting Friday night to April 26 morning.

“Smaller districts and towns are observing lockdowns ranging from weekend to four-five days. Voluntary closure works, but we need stricter measures from the authorities to ensure compliance,” said GCCI Secretary Pathik Patwari.

Businesses have been hit hard by the second wave, with most shops empty as people avoid going out. “Businesses are about 60 per cent down from a normal year,” Patwari said. Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani had earlier this month urged people to voluntarily observe a lockdown ruling out a State-imposed shutdown. However, 20 cities in State, including the eight municipal corporations, are currently under night curfew between 8 pm and 6 am.

Opposition charge

The Opposition has raised serious questions on the voluntary lockdowns. “Gujarat is adding over 12,000 cases daily. There is a need for stricter measures to break the chain. In a State-imposed lockdown, it becomes government’s responsibility to ensure food and compensation to the affected people. But the State seems to be avoiding it, and is escaping from its responsibility by encouraging voluntary lockdowns,” Rajeshkumar Gohil, Congress MLA from Dhandhuka, said in a letter to the Gujarat Governor.

Published on April 23, 2021

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