Shopkeepers protest against govt's decision on closure of shops selling non-essential items in Pb

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Chandigarh, May 4 (PTI) Traders and shopkeepers in Punjab held protests at some places on Tuesday against the state government's order of closure of shops dealing in non-essential items, saying this will further hit them hard.

The Punjab government on Sunday ordered the closure of all shops not selling essential commodities till May 15 as part of the additional restrictions imposed in the state in the wake of a rising number of COVID-19 cases and fatalities.

Only shops dealing in medicines and essential items such as milk, bread, vegetables, fruits, dairy and poultry products, meat and mobile repairing are allowed to operate.

'This decision of the government will further add to the woes of small shopkeepers and traders, who have already suffered mounting losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic,' Punjab Pradesh Beopar Mandal general secretary Sameer Jain said.

'Closing shops (selling non-essential items) in the entire state will hit the small shopkeepers hard,' he said while pointing out that the state government had not announced any relief package for the shopkeepers battling the adverse economic impact of COVID-19.

He said the state government should at least not enforce the order at places where the number of coronavirus cases is not high.

Traders said protests were held at Barnala, Ludhiana, Jalalabad and some other places and demanded that they be allowed to open their shops.

They said with the closure of shops, it would be difficult for them to pay salaries to their employees and bear the electricity charges and other expenses.

Sangrur-based trader Jaswinder Singh said the government should give a rebate in taxes to the shopkeepers for the period when the shops remain closed.

Ludhiana-based trader Sunil Mehra, who participated in a protest in Ludhiana, slammed the Congress government in the state for announcing the decision of closure of shops dealing in non-essential goods.

It will render several labourers jobless, he said.

Instead of closure, the government can propose alternative solutions like opening of shops following the odd-even formula, Mehra said.

Punjab is among the worst-affected states in the country in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday, it registered 157 deaths due to the viral disease and 9,798 fresh cases. PTI CHS VSD RC