Home / News / India /  Retail bodies seek easier rules as Maharashtra govt begins state-wide curbs

New Delhi: Several retail and restaurant industry bodies on Monday appealed to the Maharashtra state government asking it to reconsider latest rules put into place to control the spread of covid-19 in the state. The order, released Sunday, is meant to enforce stricter curbs including restrictions on several non-essential activities such as dining-in, visits to cinema, malls, salons, gyms and markets till end of April.

The National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) urged the state government to allow restaurants to function within normal hours while following safety protocols in the absence of which it sought compensation for loss of business that the sector may endure this month. “I urge the Maharashtra Government to either allow us to operate normal hours with safeguards and protocols or compensate us, our employees, suppliers & landlords suitably for the loss of business arising out of the lockdown," Anurag Katriar, the association’s president said.

In an order dated 4th April—the Maharashtra government said that all restaurants and bars in the state are to remain closed, except for those inside the campus and integral part of hotels. It however, permitted take away orders, parcels and home delivery services that will be allowed between 7 am to 8 pm Monday to Friday. On weekends, only home delivery revives shall be allowed between 7 am to 8 pm and there shall be no visiting any restaurant or bar for ordering purposes or pickup, according to the order.

The order comes as the state is putting stricter restrictions on mobility till end of April amid a worrying surge in covid-19 cases.

Katriar however said the recent order limiting restaurants to operate only till 8 pm will rob them of business done during dinner time.

“We have been operating at 50% and restricted hours since then. We had just about started seeing some respectable surge in consumption which prompted us to hire back our people and now we are left in a lurch. These new guidelines, which prohibits dining completely and allows only deliveries till 8pm is meaningless and totally unsustainable. It is like an excruciating and painful slow death for an erstwhile vibrant industry," he said.

Meanwhile, Retailers' Association of India (RAI) called the state’s order a "Retail Lockdown" after the order stated that all shops, markets and malls are to remain closed throughout the day except for those selling essential services.

"Retail businesses of non- essential goods are feeling discriminated for being pressed by restrictions and lockdowns without any respite from the Government," RAI said raising concerns around the order. The industry body has also been calling for vaccination of its front-line staff.

The fresh round of curbs will tighten liquidity within trade, RAI said. "The retail industry will again start experiencing severe liquidity challenges due to the ‘Retail Lockdown’ in the State, while the fixed operating costs remained intact. It is expected that the retailers pay electricity bills, property taxes, among others in spite of being shut. The new order will have a contagion effect on the entire retail ecosystem in the state and across the country majorly impacting manufacturing and employment of millions," Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO, Retailers Association of India (RAI) said.

Members of The Confederation of all India Traders (CAIT) in a letter to state chief minister Uddhav Thackeray sought clarity on the orders. The association sought clarity whether the lockdowns are limited to the weekend or extend themselves to weekdays too for retailers of non-essential goods. “…the business community and other sectors of the economy in Maharashtra are confused whether there is a lockdown only for weekend days or for the rest of the whole month beginning today. There seems to be no clarity on this issue and everyone in Maharashtra stands confused. There are about 25 lakh traders in the state of Maharashtra, and they are the one who are more worried because of lockdown," CAIT said in its letter. CAIT recommended that instead of a full lockdown, shop timings (for non-essential shops) be reduced from 11 am to 5 pm and in cooperation with trade associations. Extra efforts may be planned to maintain covid safety protocols at all levels, CAIT members said.

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