Traders seek clarity, urge states to issue guidelines on reopening of shops

A shopkeeper wears a mask and sanitizes his hands at Crawford market in Mumbai Photo: PTI
With the Centre allowing reopening of neighbourhood and standalone shops, traders on Saturday sought more clarity for easier implementation of the order and urged states to issue necessary guidelines, without which shop owners would not be able to resume work.

The Retailers Association of India (RAI) said the government's order to allow reopening of shops is open to interpretation as terms like "market complexes" are not easily understood.

The retail industry body said keeping in mind the current environment and lessons learnt by keeping essential retail open through the lockout, "we would recommend that the government open up all channels of retail on a date that it feels safe with the social distancing norms clearly defined", while also asking for malls to be allowed to open.

The government on Friday night allowed opening of neighbourhood and standalone shops, including those located in residential complexes within municipal areas, but at a 50 per cent strength and after taking necessary precautions.

However, the order, signed by Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, made it clear that shops in market places, multi-brand and single-brand malls located in municipality areas shall continue to remain closed till May 3.

"We feel the current circular is open to interpretation and needs more clarity for easier implementation - terms like market complexes are not easily understood," RAI said in a statement.

Domestic traders' body CAIT said shopkeepers would not open their stores till states issue necessary guidelines.

The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) said that shop owners are now waiting for necessary guidelines from state governments.

"In pursuance of the order of the home ministry, the state governments have to issue necessary order to implement the order of the central government.

"Traders shall have to wait for the orders of states and after that only, they will be eligible to open the shops by complying (with) the norms of health safety and social distancing," CAIT Secretary General Praveeen Khandelwal said.

He also urged Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and Urban Development Minister Hardeep Puri to make a clear plan and advise all states to take necessary steps for sanitising the markets and shops.

Khandelwal added that only such shops which are registered under the Shops and Establishment Act and fall within the territory limit of a municipal corporation or municipality would be allowed to open.

He appealed to the traders not to open their shops and wait for the order of the respective states.

"Since trade and Shops and Establishment Act is the state subject, only states governments are empowered to take the decision," he added.

Meanwhile, a shop owner from Wardha district in Maharashtra, Vishal Mehta, said "we have not yet opened the stores as we are waiting for order from state government."

In a statement, Amazon said e-commerce offers the safest way for sellers/retailers to serve the needs of citizens while ensuring social distancing.

"We are committed to keep citizens safe and urge the government to enable e-commerce to play its role in the joint fight against the pandemic by allowing the supply of all goods that people need over a prolonged period," it said.


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