'If situation doesn't improve before Diwali, 25 per cent shops will shut,' say traders' union

Updated: 14 September, 2020 07:30 IST | Prajakta Kasale | Mumbai

Traders' body says 50,000 shops in Mumbai will be forced to down shutters permanently, thanks to a deadly cocktail of high maintenance costs, lack of trains and dipping demand

Closed shops seen at Lalbaug in June. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Closed shops seen at Lalbaug in June. Pic/Bipin Kokate

The city has only 70 per cent shops open so far, while 60,000 businesses, many of them being small-scale ones, are still shut. This has been attributed to the unavailability of train services as people are not able to reach their workplaces. A traders body has said that unless the situation improves before Diwali, 25 per cent of the closed businesses would have to shut down.

If the situation does not improve till Diwali, 25 per cent business will have to quit Mumbai. People have been home for six months. With no celebrations, people are only buying food items. Small businesses will face a dire situation," said Vinesh Mehta, president of the Federation of Associations of Maharashtra (FAM).

A shopkeeper draws circles outside his shop in Dadar to facilitate social distancing. Pic/Ashish Raje
A shopkeeper draws circles outside his shop in Dadar to facilitate social distancing. Pic/Ashish Raje

Although shops are remaining open through most of the day, only a few customers have been venturing outside amid COVID-19. While expenses and maintenance continue to increase. Shops selling eatables and grocery are the only ones operating properly. The business of all other traders has been hit by online shopping.

The president of Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association, Viren Shah, told mid-day, "Mumbai is open but due to expenses like rent, fewer staffers, and the 7 pm deadline, 30 per cent shops remain closed. There are around 2 lakh shops, both small and big, in Mumbai. So 60,000 of these are still closed. It is unlikely that things will improve this year. Businessmen could expect complete reopening in March 2021."

A closed shop seen in Nehru Nagar, Kurla East. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
A closed shop seen in Nehru Nagar, Kurla East. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

No financial relief

According to an estimate by the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), 1.75 crore small shops owners across the country have suffered heavy losses due to the lockdown. If the situation doesn't improve, all shop owners will be forced to shut shop. "This will also lead to increased unemployment," said CAIT secretary general Pravin Khandelwal.

CAIT also said that this has been caused by lack of short-term or long-term support from the Central and state governments. CAIT said that the Indian domestic trade comprises more than seven crore traders and employs over 40 crore people. It generates an annual turnover of about Rs 60 lakh crore.

CAIT National Secretary Suresh Sonthalia said that there is no provision for small businesses in the Rs 20 lakh crore package announced by the Union Government nor has any state government formulated financial assistance for small businesses. What pinches traders is that all other sectors except traders were considered worthy of a financial bailout. This despite the fact that at one call from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the traders ensured that the supply chain across the country continues efficiently.

With agency inputs

60k
No. of shops across the city that are still closed

March
Month in 2021 when traders' representatives say all shops may reopen

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First Published: 14 September, 2020 06:50 IST

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