Traders expect ‘favourable decision before Bakrid’

They withdraw their plan to open shops from today after meeting CM

Retail traders on Friday dropped their plan to open shops from Saturday despite the COVID-19 regulations and the weekend lockdown following conciliatory talks with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samathi (KVVES) office-bearers led by State president T. Naseeruddin met Mr. Vijayan at the Secretariat here. They said he was empathetic to their plight.

Mr. Naseeruddin said the Chief Minister had not meant to sound harsh when he cautioned traders against violating the pandemic protocol. The cloud of misunderstanding receded when the traders met him in person, he said.

The traders returned from the meeting with the promise that they could "anticipate a favourable decision" before Bakrid. The government promised to create a separate department to administer the retail sector.

Onam season

The traders told the government that floods and later COVID-19 had deprived them of three back-to-back Onam shopping seasons. Onam shoppers account for half of Kerala’s annual retail business. The second wave of the disease had crippled the retail sector, causing severe loss of business and lengthy workforce lay-offs.

Family-run neighbourhood convenience stores are the worst affected. Most ran on credit extended to neighbours. When their debtors failed to pay, many such shops had no option but to board up.

Mr. Vijayan agreed that extended shop timings and permission to open on all days would reduce crowding. He promised to consider the demand to allow textile, footwear, jewellery, mobile and fancy shops to open.

The traders told Mr. Vijayan that the test positivity rate-based regulations merely pushed shoppers from high-spread localities to less-infected neighbourhoods where shops could open for limited hours and on alternate weekdays.

The KVVES office-bearers said it was never their intent to challenge the government or upset pandemic regulations. "Traders are at their wit’s end. It’s a desperate situation for most. Hence, KVVES members decided to open for business. Some traders hinted that they would self-immolate in their shops if the police persecuted them for opening," an office-bearer said.

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