During 21-day lockdown, Delhi govt says grocers can run 24×7

Somya Lakhani, Sourav Roy Barman
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Not many grocery stores are keen to take up the offer to stay open 24x7. (Representational image)

Establishments providing essential services, including grocery shops, will be allowed to operate 24x7, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced Thursday.

In a joint press briefing with L-G Anil Baijal, the CM said Delhi Police ACPs and sub-divisional magistrates have been ordered to “personally ensure” functioning of essential services without any hindrance in their respective areas. “Be it a vegetable vendor, a grocery shop owner or a chemist, every essential service provider is being given e-passes. All they need to do is call the helpline number (1031). The passes will reach them via WhatsApp,” said Kejriwal, adding that police have been asked to allow essential service providers to function even if they don’t have passes.

Baijal said the measure will “help in staggering customer visits and help maintain social distancing norms”. The announcements were made after a meeting of the core committee, monitoring arrangements to keep the capital running during the 21-day lockdown period, at the L-G’s residence.

However, not many grocery stores are keen to take up the offer to stay open 24x7. Many shopkeepers the The Indian Express spoke to cited lack of manpower and diminishing stocks as the main reason.

At Lajpat Nagar’s Home Shoppe store, a manager said, “Shelves are getting empty quickly and we don’t have a lot of stock anyway. All our stock comes from outside Delhi and there is uncertainty about whether we will be able to replenish it or not.”

At Sadar Bazar’s Annapurna grocery store, the owner said, “There is no footfall after 8 pm, there are hardly any people in the day. I won’t keep my shop open at night.” At Jain Dairy nearby, the owner said, “It’s a good order but we will have to pay staff extra money for the extra hours. Will they bear that bill?”

Meanwhile, Confederation of All India Traders in a statement welcomed the move in the “time of this unprecedented crisis as it will facilitate more people to procure their daily essential goods”.

More than 3,000 e-passes issued

The New Delhi district administration is issuing e-passes in seven different colours, categorising applications based on the nature of services extended by individuals and establishments. The South and East district administration have decided to keep “things simple” and issue similar passes to everyone.

New Delhi district magistrate Tanvi Garg said the system was devised for easier identification and record keeping of passes. By Thursday morning, the administration had received 525 applications and 299 passes were issued. The administration also plans to persuade vendors with passes to start doorstep delivery so that people don't have to come out

South Delhi DM B M Mishra said they have issued around 1,000 e-passes so far. He said the passes were being issued on a “trust basis” as physical verification of the claims would take up a lot of resources.“That does not mean anyone who applies will get the pass. We are proceeding with abundant caution,” he said.

Officials of the East Delhi administration said around 2,800 passes have been issued so far. The e-passes will remain valid only during the lockdown. Any misuse will attract punishment.

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