THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With Onam approaching, the government has announced a set of new guidelines as part of lockdown relaxation. Though shops and establishments are allowed to open, traders say the new rules are hard to implement
With Onam around the corner, the new guidelines imposed by the Kerala government mandating RT-PCR negative certificates or vaccination for shoppers came as a jolt for traders in the capital. The traders unanimously say the new restrictions are unscientific, unreasonable and impractical. Small-time traders are the worst hit and have decided to take it up with the authorities.
Though they say it’s impractical to ask shoppers to follow these norms, many leading trade establishments have come up with a slew of measures to tackle crowding during the festival season. Many major establishments have introduced token system, waiting areas, and announcement system to manage the crowd.
Sudheer K, who runs a shop at Aryasala, said the new norms may work only for big supermarkets and similar establishments. “Our customers are common men and it’s impossible to impose these restrictions on them. Mine is a very small shop and I am hardly getting any business. Those who come for Onam shopping may not like us asking them for a Covid negative certificate or vaccination document. They would just leave without buying anything. The government should first impose these restrictions on beverage outlets. It’s not right to enforce different rules for traders and other government-run establishments,” he said.
Many traders said the government didn’t handle the pandemic situation scientifically which is the primary reason for the increase in the number of cases. “Despite all these restrictions, they continue to collect taxes from us. They should instead cut down the salaries of government employees who are working from their homes. They should give us tax waivers and help us get back on our feet,” says Santhosh Kumar, who has been running a shop at Chalai market for the past 65 years.
The Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samiti (KVVES) alleged the government is imposing more restrictions so they can fleece the public and traders by imposing fines. State secretary of the Samiti S S Manoj said the restrictions are impossible to follow for thousands of traders. “The government has blocked the entry of the public after permitting to open the shops. This is unfair and impossible to comply with. It’s unreasonable to demand the public to carry so many documents for small purchases. We will be taking this up with the authorities,” he said.
Venkit Raj, vice-president of Supermarket Welfare Association Kerala (SWAK), said many traders are planning to stick posters with the restrictions written on them so the customers can follow them. “We have limitations to impose these restrictions. All we can do is put up posters so that the customers can see it while entering the shops,” he said.
With Onam fast approaching, the authorities are expecting a heavy rush at prime shopping spots, including MG Road, Chalai, Palayam and East Fort. As per the restrictions, it is the responsibility of the shop owners to control crowding. Anticipating heavy rush, some of the major establishments in the capital has come up with a token system and waiting areas for customers.
“We will be introducing a token system and a waiting area has been set up near the shop to manage the crowd. Most of the customers come with their families and it’s impossible to implement the current restrictions. The customer will get upset if we don’t allow children inside. We will be forced to welcome them. Or one of them should be willing to sit in the waiting area with the children when the rest of the family shops,” said Prabha Harrison, senior manager of Ramachandran — a popular shopping destination in the capital.
He added that arrangements have been made for announcements to sensitise the public. “Every 10 minutes there would be announcements requesting the customers to expedite shopping and leave immediately. We have housekeeping staff who would be disinfecting the shopping spaces every hour,” he said.
Many other traders have also decided to adopt strict restrictions for Onam shoppers. “We will collect customers’ contact numbers and screen their temperature before they enter the shop. We will try to implement the restrictions imposed by the government. If there is more crowd we will introduce a token system,” said an official of Pothys — a popular shopping spot in the capital.
Deputy Collector (Disaster Management) T K Vineeth told TNIE that more sectoral magistrates would be deployed for ensuring enforcement of the government restrictions. “In the wake of the Onam festival season, we will be deploying 17 more sectoral magistrates for checking whether Covid protocol are being followed. They would be focusing more on marketplaces and commercial establishments where there is a concentration of shoppers. Already we have around 50 sectoral magistrates and police would be stepping up surveillance to ensure shoppers carry Covid negative certificate or vaccination certificate. All others who venture out should carry an affidavit,” said T K Vineeth.
Individuals who want to enter shops, markets, banks, public sector institutions, factories, financial institutions, tourism centres etc, should carry RT-PCR negative certificates or Covid vaccination certificates. Those who have recovered from Covid at least one month back or who had received at least one dose of vaccine would be allowed entry.