HYDERABAD : Pulses to spices, plastics to cosmetics, name it and you’ll find it at Begum Bazar for dirt cheap. The biggest wholesale market in Hyderabad established in the Qutb Shahi rule sees transactions worth crores on a daily basis and is a one-stop shopping destination for millions in the city.
A stroll through its dingy bylanes reminds one of Mumbai’s Crawford Market or Delhi’s Sadar Bazar, that’s how busy Begum Bazar is. A typical day at the market is somewhat like this: labourers unloading truckloads of dry fruits in perfect sync, traders mostly Marwaris using all the tricks in the book to strike a good deal with suppliers, customers bargaining with shopkeepers for the sahi daam and Chottus ensuring that their saabs get their cutting chais every couple of hours.
But all this came to a grinding halt at 5 pm on Friday, four hours before closing time. The bustling gallis fell silent and hundreds of hole-in-the-wall kirana shops downed their shutters, for the second time since 2020, to observe a self-imposed partial lockdown amid a spike in Covid cases in Hyderabad. There have been over 300 cases in the market itself, some traders said. In an attempt to cushion the blow of the second wave, the Hyderabad Kirana Merchant Association on Thursday urged grocery shops in Begum Bazar to shut their shops at 5 pm.
This restriction has not gone down well with some. A grocery store owner, who did not want to be named, does not see sense in this measure. “What’s the point of closing only kirana shops when there are so many other stores — steel, brass, plastics. People will still crowd the market senselessly and not wear masks but we end up bearing the brunt. Ramzan starts next week, so many people come to Begum Bazar to shop. Also, the summer is so harsh that most of them step out of their homes only in the evening, after 5 pm. There’s hardly any business during the day because of the scorching heat,” he said.
Another kirana shop owner, Ramdev, said just one association calling for a partial lockdown will not work. “There’s no unity in this market. What about other associations? This 5 pm restriction will not help reduce the number of Covid cases. People don’t care, they will continue to behave as they like.”
Begum Bazar has been infamous for its poor hygiene and congestion. Even if one wants to maintain physical distance, it is practically impossible, given the narrow bylanes and the heavy footfall the market sees every day. “Ever since Covid broke out, the rush has reduced. Earlier, these lanes used to be so packed that one would find it difficult to even walk. Today you can play a game of cricket,” said Ajay Singh, who runs a plastics shop and is a member of the Hyderabad General Merchant Association.
According to him, this restriction makes sense because the government does not seem to be doing anything to contain the pandemic. “The 5 pm rule is needed because there are people who don’t care about the Covid guidelines. Even our association is considering imposing a self-lockdown. We have to take decisions like this because the government is not doing anything.
If we don’t act, this country will turn into another Brazil,” said Ajay, who fears that the situation is turning worse as compared to last year. On the other hand, the Hyderabad Kirana Merchant Association’s president, Laxminarayan Rathi, has contracted Covid himself and is in home quarantine. “There are many Covid positive cases in the market. In my sister’s family itself there are five. We had to call for this partial lockdown for our families’ safety. We want the government to come up with a solution because this disease is spreading faster than before,” he said.
There are many Covid cases in the market. We had to call for this partial lockdown for our families’ safety. We want the govt to come up with a solution because this disease is spreading faster
Laxminarayan Rathi, Hyd Kirana Merchant Association president
There’s no unity in this market. What about other associations? This 5 pm restriction will not help reduce the number of Covid cases here. People don’t care, they will continue to behave as they like and follow the rules Ramdev, a grocery store owner
The Hyd Kirana Merchant Assn urged grocery stores in Begum Bazar to shut their shops at 5 pm
As the bustling gallis fall silent and hundreds of hole-in-the-wall kirana shops down heir shutters for the second time since 2020 to observe a self-imposed partial lockdown, some traders voice their anger, some support the move
— Himabindu Reddy email@example.com @ahimureddy