New Delhi: Delhi is waking up slowly from a 55-day forced slumber of sorts.
On the second day of Lockdown 4.0, Delhi’s notorious traffic made a comeback of sorts with blaring of horns but almost all road users were wearing masks.
On a day India’s Corona case load exceeded one lakh, people seemed cautious about taking a chance with their lives despite relaxations announced by the Delhi government.
Most shops had guards at the entrance stopping customers for recording temperature with non contact forehead thermometers and insisting on use of masks, sanitisers and plastic gloves.
During lockdown, the otherwise bustling Connaught Place had become reminiscent of its vintage sepia tainted images of the 50s and 60s. Despite lifting of restrictions on Monday evening, most parking areas in different blocks in CP had only half a dozen cars. Instead, pigeons took most of the parking spaces.
It was obvious that India’s Corona caseload exceeding one lakh and over 3,000 casualties had not been able to persuade people to come out and reexplore life after nearly two months of mandatory home confinement. Parul, a 28-year-old secretary who had come to get fuel refilled in her scooter, said she is very scared. “Life has become very uncertain. It is difficult to work with masks all the time. Sometimes, I feel suffocated with masks.”
Almost two dozen migrants could be seen waiting near the A block metro station in the hope of filling some documents to get on a train back home. They said they were working in a tailoring unit in Peeragarhi but were desperate to go home. They were waved on by the beat constables before they could be persuaded to talk further.
Beggars could be seen asking for money from auto passengers near Regal cinema hall. Even some auto drivers were carrying sanitisers.
Shopkeepers did not seem happy having to do business on the basis of odd-even formula but said they really did not have a choice.
Samir Khan who works in a rented stall on Janpath said his shop opened on Tuesday as it has an odd number. The 40-year-old salesman who takes home a salary of only Rs15,000 said he came to the shop from north Delhi during Ramzan in the hope of doing business but has not been able to sell anything.
His neighbour, Tarun Arora, a 34-year-old graduate pointed to the way he had to stuff clothes in the 6 feet by 4 feet stall. “Look at the cobweb here. I just came today to check the response. We had goods worth Rs10-12 lakh. Our clothes have gone bad and we have suffered a loss of Rs3 lakh. Besides, our peak business season is from March to August. Of this, we have already lost three months and do not know what the future holds for us.”
Thankfully for the shopkeepers, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has urged the Delhi government to reconsider the odd-even formula for shop opening, observing only 5 lakh shops could open in city owing to the arrangement. The traders body said due to accumulation of dust, it is likely it will take at least a week for the shops to be completely cleaned. The goods in many shops were spoilt and rotten while mice spoiled the stocks in cloth and fabric shops.
The good old Oriental Fruits Mart in E block which dates back to 1935, had no shoppers. Its owner, Mahinder Pal Arora said, “We have a daily footfall of 200 customers. How do you expect customers to come here with restrictions on transport? I have been doing business here for over five decades but I have never seen Connaught Place like this. There are no customers. It will take at least a year for business to bounce back to normal. Since we also stock perishables like fruits and other food stuff, we lost about Rs5 lakh in March and April.’’
Petrol pumps too were not getting much business. At the HP petrol pump in E block, a salesman reported the sales had crashed to 10% of the usual sales. Heaving a sigh of relief with sight of three vehicles that pulled up for fuel, he said they have been able to recover only 30% of their daily business.
Only the petrol pump near Bangla Sahib Gurdwara had some cars and two-wheelers.
The scene in South Delhi was different. The blaring of car horns and multi lane traffic on Delhi’s Ring Road near Nanakpura Gurdwara gave an indication Delhi was impatient to embrace normal life.
It is clear it will take a while for the national capital to return to a normal life.