Lockdown 3.0: Relaxation Norms Confusing City Traders, To Open or keep shut a Big Question Among Shopkeepers
GUWAHATI: After 40 days of total lockdown so far as non-essential business was concerned whereby all non-essential shops in Guwahati (and in rest of Assam) remained shut, the Assam government, on Monday, relaxed the coronavirus-triggered norms allowing more shops to open in the state.
However, most of the outlets in the market areas of Guwahati kept their shutters down due to a massive confusion prevailing regarding the numbering system under the new norms that allows only one-third of the shops in one row of any commercial area (be it GS Road or Fancy Bazar or any other such locality) to open on one particular day.
Guwahati’s trading community, while continuing to remain confused and seeking clarity on the relaxation guidelines, is rather disappointed with the purported delay in the state government announcing the same with regard to Lockdown 3.0 starting May 4.
Retailers and traders were hoping to reopen their shops and so be back in business from Monday, May 4, under the new relaxed guidelines by the government of India for the extended lockdown period till May 17. Yet, to all effects they were at best left hanging by the state authorities who kept delaying the process of issuing clear guidelines regarding the same.
Today, there is also a dilemma among business owners with the interpretation of what constitutes a neighbourhood shop and a standalone shop and what all come under the hood of a market complex.
Here’s a chronology of events that led to the confusion:
1. On May 1, the government of India announced extension of the lockdown until May 17 and issued a fresh set of guidelines that constituted a number of relaxations.
2. The central government passed the authority to state/union territory governments to issue further guidelines without diluting the guidelines issued by the government of India.
3. The state government remained silent on the matter or rather sat on it until May 3, the last day of Lockdown 2.0.
4. On May 3 at around 4 PM, the chief minister of Assam, Sarbananda Sonowal, announced that he would hold a press conference at 4:30 PM. However, the press conference was delayed by half an hour.
5. While the citizens of the state were hooked to their TVs hoping for announcements regarding guidelines for lockdown relaxations, the only announcement they received was that the announcements would take place at 6 PM and that the CM had “given responsibility to health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma” to announce the same.
6. At 6 PM, health and finance minister of state Himanta Biswa Sarma finally announced the relaxed guidelines for Assam.
7. However, there was still no clarity in the guidelines as the authority that would issue the city-to-city detailed guidelines was further passed on. The deputy commissioners (DC) of each district were now asked to identify which shops would open on which days, based on a rotation formula whereby a shop will be allowed to operate only twice a week.
8. Close to midnight, Deputy Commissioner of Kamrup (M) urged all traders not to open their shops until 12 noon the next day (May 4) and await his message (order) issuing further clarity.
9. After meeting with market associations, DC Biswajit Pegu held a press conference at around 1:30 pm.
10. Once again, the baton of enforcing the state guidelines was passed on. The DC asked building owners to decide the rotation pattern for the shops in their respective buildings and ensure that no more than one-third of the shops are open at any given moment/day.
After these series of events with the final decision being given, there is still no clarity among the traders and shopkeepers. There are many questions that remain unanswered but the highest authorities too seem confused. The biggest and most disheartening one is, “When can our shops really open?”
Many citizens raised their queries on the social media platform Twitter and received mixed responses from the authorities.
One such question was whether offices inside a plaza/market complex can operate on rotational basis. While the chief secretary of the state Kumar Sanjay Krishna said “Yes”, Additional Director General of Police (Law & Order) clearly said, “The entire plaza stays closed for now.”
The state government has taken rather a long time to come out with the new set of relaxation norms and yet they have done nothing but confused the citizens, feel Guwahatians as per reports coming in.
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