Dilli 6 Vs Lutyens Delhi - The Quint’s COVID-19 Reality Check 

Coronavirus | ‘Some youngsters roaming around without masks’: Delhi Shop Owner.

3 min read

Video Editor: Kunal Mehra

Delhi's markets are up and running in the fourth phase of lockdown. The Quint visits Delhi’s posh Khan market and old Delhi’s wholesale cum retail market, Bhagirath Palace for a COVID-19 reality check.

We witnessed a rush of buyers at Bhagirath Palace market, many of them unable to follow COVID-19 norms, due to narrow lanes and congestion. On the other hand, while Khan Market was following Delhi Government guidelines, there weren't too many shoppers out either.

As per Delhi government’s guidelines:

  • All shops will follow an odd-even system, based on the date, to avoid congestion. Eg: On 1 June all shops with odd numbers will open.
  • Shoppers and Shopkeepers have to strictly follow and maintain social distancing norms in the common spaces and inside shops.
  • It is mandatory to wear a mask.
  • All shops should close by 6pm, so that everybody can reach home by 7pm.

‘Why Did Delhi Govt Rush To Open Markets’

The Bhagirath Palace market is divided into two - the pharmaceutical wholesale market, and the electronics market.

Since medicines are classified as essential items, all shops were open and flooded with customers. Shop owners confirmed that after offices and shops were allowed to open in Lockdown 4.0, there was a surge of customers.

There was no social distancing outside the shops or in the by-lanes. We spotted several people not wearing masks.

‘For Safety, Wife Wrapped Me With Cloth’

The electronics market was following the odd-even system. Most shop keepers were also taking precautions by sanitising their products and restricting entry of customers inside the shop. A few were unhappy with Delhi government’s decision to open the shops.

We have waited for 2 months and we can wait further. Delhi government is opening shops for their benefit and not for our benefit. The number of customers is not enough to justify opening the shops. Rather we have risked our lives. My wife has wrapped me with cloth and put my photo on the family WhatsApp group. Family members are messaging to ask if I will be able to stay safe at work in this manner.
Ajay Bhayana, shop owner in Bhagirath Palace

‘We Worry About Elderly Shop Owners’

Khan Market was following the odd-even system and social distancing norms quite strictly. Several shops selling 'non-essential' goods like toys, jewellery, garments were open, but there were hardly any customers at these shops. Customers were visible only at shops selling essential goods.

Very few customers are coming. We are not allowing customers to try clothes. We are providing gloves to the customers who want to touch the the items on sale.
Rajesh Gupta, Garment shop owner, Khan market

Some shopkeepers complained about customers not cooperating.

“Most people are fearful but we have seen some youngsters roaming around without masks. When we tell them to wear a mask, they say that they believe in herd immunity. So, we have put up a notice at the entrance saying that a mask is a must inside the shop.
Navneet Kalra, Owner of Dayal Opticals, Khan market

Since older people are more vulnerable to COVID-19, some elderly shop owners are staying away and preferring not to open their shops.

We are worried about those shopkeepers who are above the age of 60. 50-60% shopkeepers here are on medication. Right now they are not coming. We will see how we can cooperate and help them. Health concerns are there but now we have to live with it. The country cannot stop because of Coronavirus. Now it is time to revive the economy.
Sachin Narula, Stationary Shop owner, Khan market

Gone are the days of window shopping and trying on ten garments before purchasing one. Customers are scared and shop owners are wary. But social distancing is the new norm and is here to stay even though it may not be possible everywhere in India.

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