Mumbai: Demand to roll back lockdown - Traders and shopkeepers hit the roads in protest
BL Soni

Hundreds of shopkeepers, hawkers, and small-time traders have hit the streets on Tuesday afternoon to protest the state government's decision of imposing a mini lockdown, to contain the spread of the Covid-19.

Most of the protestors were either shopowners or employees of barbershops, novelty shops, and other similar category stores, that the government hasn't identified under essential categories.

The protesting traders represented the 'Borivli East Traders Association' - an independent outfit of traders.

The protestors formed a human chain alongside the station road at Borivli and held placards in their hands, with more than two hundred traders joining the protest, the chain became one kilometre long.

The traders said that their demand is that the government should roll back the lockdown at the earliest, as since the last year they have been facing a severe financial crisis, and now that they were on the verge of recovery, the state government has imposed another lockdown.

"Imposing a lockdown is not a solution, we all know that the virus is going to stay and we have to live with it anyway," said Deepak Patel a businessman.

"Instead of shutting everything, the state government should concentrate on getting more people vaccinated, that's the only way out," Patel said.

"Many of us had to mortgage our personal belongings to pay the rent of our shops, we have been suffering a lot since last one year and now we cannot afford another lockdown," said Himesh Naik, owner of a novelty store in Borivli market.

The traders said that even though there is a lockdown, both the state and the union government haven't provided them any tax rebate that would ease the financial burden off their shoulders.

"While there was lockdown, throughout last year we had to pay our property tax and water bills, the authorities didn't provide rebate by the minimum margin," said Nagesh Angare, a businessman and senior member of the association.

"If we can't run our business, then how will we pay the taxes in the future," Angare added.

The traders said that the state should have consulted representative bodies of the traders before imposing the decision of the lockdown. They mentioned that once the lockdown gets lifted businessmen don't improve automatically, as it takes a lot of time for things to fall into place.

"The state should understand that lot of people are dependent on these small-time markets, if we shut our shops suddenly then we won't be able to buy anything from the suppliers, this indirectly affects other industries too," said Ramesh Jain, another businessman.

Meanwhile, in Bhindi Bazar area in South Mumbai, another group of traders staged a protest on Tuesday afternoon demanding an immediate rolling back of the lockdown imposed to tackle the virus.

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