CHENNAI: The maxim Thoonga Nagaram (city that never sleeps) is not something anybody will associate with Chennai. Until a few decades ago, most of the city wound up by 10 pm. The IT boom brought 24x7 BPO’s that capitalises on the ever-increasing graduate market that the city offered up on a platter. Restaurants and shops started to keep their shutters open a little later than usual.
Cut to the present, the recent proposal by the union government to keep shops open 24x7 has raised hopes among industry circles, especially those in the entertainment sector. “Of course, it is a brilliant proposal. Both the parties (the service providers and the common public) will be satisfied if this becomes a reality,” said Abirami Ramanathan, proprietor of Abirami Mega Mall and also president of the Tamil Nadu Theater Owners Association to City Express.
Ramanathan explains such a scenario would benefit people who work during nights and those frequently travelling or passing through the city while travelling. “Imagine a traveller having five hours to kill during the wee hours of the day. Instead of spending his time doing nothing, a `120 movie ticket would at least keep him entertained. It’s also good business for us, as there will definitely be public patronage to cinema,” he added. Ramanathan cited examples of the markets in countries like Singapore and Thailand to prove his point.
However, not every sector shares this enthusiasm. Banking employees, for instance, don’t see the necessity for a physically functioning 24x7 bank, especially with internet banking and ATM’s. “Banking is not a highly essential service like hospitals and already, the sector caters to crores of people beyond its strength,” says C H Venkatachalam, general secretary, All India Banking Employee Association. “These are just fanciful ideas. Let those people (politicians) work 365 days. It is a well known fact that our parliament records the least number of working hours in the world.”
A M Vikramaraja, Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangangal Peramaipu (Merchants association) president, says the proposed law is aimed to cater to the big players in the industry. “But, they can also gain from it, provided security for small traders is assured. Police harassment to petty traders is a common thing and we cannot afford private security like the shopping complexes,” Vikramaraja points out.
If the proposal takes shape and becomes law, security can become a nightmare for the police. “Where is the force? Let us have this discussion when we triple our strength. Policing is no child’s play,” a senior police officer said.