Covid-19: Panic in Azadpur mandi after death; officials say ops to continue

Topics Coronavirus | APMC mandis | Lockdown

Rajkumar Bhatia, another trader from the same mandi, said that labourers who load and unload vegetables and fruits from trucks are scared as they fear that if they get infected there is no one to look after them and hence don’t want to come to work.
Panic gripped Delhi’s Azadpur mandi, one of the biggest wholesale markets in the country, over talk that a section of traders was looking to suspend their operations after one person died because of coronavirus disease (Covid-19), even though officials repeatedly clarified that operations would continue as usual.

“All rumours regarding some traders threatening not to run their shops over Covid-19 fears is completely unfounded and all shops are operating normally and will continue to do so in the coming days as well,” Adil Ahmed Khan, chairman of Azadpur APMC, told Business Standard on Friday.
In the past few days, a section of traders threatened to suspend operations following the death of a trader because of Covid-19 and rumours that two others who worked in the mandi were infected.

“Traders selling lemon, tomatoes, oranges, grapes, turmeric and ginger among others are looking to not trade over fears of Covid-19 because nobody wants to risk their lives,” said Rajendra Sharma, a prominent trader at the mandi and president of the Onion Merchants’ Association.

He said onion and potato traders though hadn’t decided to join any such suspension and would with business.

Rajkumar Bhatia, another trader said laborers who load and unload vegetables and fruits from trucks, were scared as they fear that if they there would be nobody to look after them if they get infected and, hence, don’t want to come to work. “We are waiting for the goods in transit from villages and once they reach the mandi we will take a call on whether or not to suspend operations as sanitization operations in the mandi is grossly inadequate,” Bhatia said. Anil Malhotra, a member of Azadpur APMC in a letter written a few days ago, alleged that the administration had placed unreasonable demands on traders, like early completion of loading and unloading of trucks, which was difficult to fulfill because of acute shortage of labourers.

He said after the death of one trader, everyone was terrified to work in Azadpur as there was no sanitization drive and contact tracing. “The administration should shift the mandi to nearby open fields for the time being so that social distancing norms could be maintained,” Malhotra said in the letter. Azadpur is one of the biggest wholesale markets for perishable items in and caters to the National Capital Region. 

On average, annually over 5 million tonnes of fruits and vegetables arrive in the market, or over 14,000 tonnes daily.

A few days back, the Delhi government decided to run the mandi in shifts. It allowed sale of vegetables from 6 am to 11 am and fruits from 2 pm to 6 pm to maintain social distancing at the Mandi, spread over 80 acres. 

However, on request from farmers and traders, the shift system was abolished. 

A token system was also introduced, under which only 1,000 people were to be allowed every four hours.

The mandi, which is a lifeline for millions in Delhi NCR has seen arrivals dropped by 20-40 per cent during the lockdown because of logistical problems.

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