Will keep their shops open if state does not roll back closure diktat, ready for punishment
Traders and shopkeepers from different parts of the city on Wednesday conducted a ‘civil disobedience’ type of movement by opening their shops despite the state diktat to close all establishments other than essentials, in an effort to break the chain of the COVID-19 second wave.
The retailers claimed that this time, they will not survive if a lockdown is imposed again. Further, they also claimed that they are ready to face any consequences for breaking the law.
A few protests took place in the Bharati Vidyapeeth and Bibwewadi areas, where owners of shops other than essential goods opened their shutters through the day. They also gave an ultimatum to the government demanding revocation of their order, threatening that otherwise, all shops would be kept open all day from Friday onwards.
Over 150 shopkeepers participated in this rally, including proprietors of restaurants, cafés, tea stalls and ice cream parlours, sellers of utensils, besides owners of electric shops and mobile shopees, photo studios, barber salons and more.
Vickrant Siingh, founder of the Bharati Vidyapeeth Vyapari Sanghatana and owner of the Itss Yummyy restaurant, said, “We are law-abiding people. But if the government is not thinking about our survival, we have no option but to break the law and continue business against lockdown,” he said, adding, “We have conducted ‘civil disobedience’ movement to show our pain to the authorities. Already, our staff has started leaving the city. It will be impossible to bring them back. There is nothing wrong in allowing our businesses to run during specific hours of the day to avoid crowds. We are going to keep our shops open from April 9 if no government decision comes in the next 48 hours.”
Pandharinath Khopde, president of the Vyapari Sanghatana, said, “We always take care of the government by paying taxes on time. This time, the government needs to take care of us. Our business activities must stay on. Patients are increasing on the one hand, but so are unemployed people. Both are life-threatening!” Another trader, Chandrashekhar Bhujbal, said, “We are compelled to pay half salaries to staff. The businesses must run for survival.”
A political game also emerged, as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) city president Jagdish Mulik and Parvati constituency legislator Madhuri Misal conducted similar protests in Bibwewadi, targeting the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government at the state level for its decisions. Some 250 traders and shopkeepers opened their stores here and condemned the ongoing diktat.
Mulik said, “The government is playing with the lives of lakhs of traders in the state by issuing random closure orders. Our party will keep supporting the cause.”
Meanwhile, Fatehchand Ranka, president of the Federation of Trade Association of Pune (FTAP) — the largest association of traders in the city — issued a statement from traders, saying, “We have planned to keep open our shops from 8 am to 6 pm on Friday to protest the government decision. If they fail to revoke the complete closure order, we will keep our shops properly open from Monday onwards. As part of our protest, traders on Thursday will rally on Laxmi Road with black ribbons on our arms. We are ready to face whatever action is initiated by the police and civic body.”