VIOLATED: Lockdowns or curfews as the Goa’s Chief Minister Pramod Sawant prefers to call them have not been able to prevent not just mega marriages but even rave parties and more recently, the San Joao revelry. No social distance was maintained at the event held on Saturday, June 26 to felicitate hundreds of covid warriors by Health Minister Vishwajit Rane

By Arvind Pinto

Lockdowns are not totally effective as due to widespread corruption social functions, including rave parties, continued to be held in Goa. Elsewhere in the country the curbs on guests at marriages are inevitably ignored

WITH the uncertainty of when would the lockdown be lifted here in Maharashtra, traders, suppliers and business people, are becoming restless. How long would the lockdown continue, when can we restart our business? How do we earn if we cannot continue our trade? It would be interesting to examine some of the many strategies that were used during the period of the lockdown.
What is the economic loss that the lockdowns have caused to the city of Mumbai? With Mumbai contributing six percent to the national gross domestic produce (GDP), the lockdowns here come at an enormous cost not to the city, but to the country as a whole.


LET us look at the losses of some of the main sectors in the city. The retail trade caters to a substantial portion of the business in the city. As per the directive of the government, shops and establishments selling essential commodities were allowed to conduct business between 7am to 11am. This four-hour window while it enabled people to buy essential items was not sufficient for traders accustomed to an eight-to-10 hours day for business. Several customers only bought what they required and the turnover was indeed, minimal.
ACCORDING to the Confederation of All India Traders, the lockdown restrictions have a grave impact on the 2.5 million traders in Maharashtra alone. Not only their source of income has been impacted, the continued lockdown has also caused a disruption in the supply chains, with a consequent inflation of prices, especially of fast-moving commodities.
Similarly, the food and beverage industry has also been severely impacted. This sector according to the Federation of Hotels & Restaurants Association of India, thousands of people in Mumbai. With the closure of the restaurants, since only take away parcels are permitted, only cooks are being employed, while the serving staff are no longer needed. Many of the serving waiters were on daily or monthly wages, many have gone back to their towns or villages.
For those restaurants that are in the take-away sales, business is booming. Many of these restaurants have tied up with delivery chains such as Zomato and Swiggy. For the young delivery boys who are mobile and willing to work, Zomato is an excellent way to earn good money. You will see these red-shirted boys on their motorbikes parked outside most of the delivery chains, on their phones, picking and delivering food parcels. Zomato is so much in demand that is will be soon be going public with an initial public offering (IPO).
Although the lockdown timings are till 11am, most shops do not really shut on time. The need to do sales is imperative. Therefore, many of them try and stay open until all customers are served. Many small retail dealers keep their shops half open, ready to down shutters should a municipal or police vehicle come by. Most retails shops have side and back entrances. While the front shutters are down, their telephone number is prominently displayed. Phone the shop and the shop owner will intimate whether you should come to the side or back door open for business.


THE rule for liquor shops is that sales are mostly online. This rule is probably to ensure that there is no crowding at the liquor shops. While in principle the rule is unquestionable, the fact is that most daily wagers and poor workers buy a daily quarter before going home. They have neither the ability nor the time to go online to book orders for their quarter bottle.
This has resulted in a quaint system. Liquor shops are half open; ready to close down should there by a passing police siren in the vicinity. Liquor shops employ young boys who act as runners. Anyone wishing to buy liquor contacts one of these runners, tells him the brand and gives the money. Within minutes the boy comes back with the bottles. The boys receive a small commission from the shops. Technically the shop takes orders online, with the runners acting as agents!


ALSO badly hit is the transport sector. While taxis and autos are allowed to ply, the majority of them stand at their regular posts waiting for a customer. With the lockdown in place, not many are travelling. Most people out to buy essentials or going short distance prefer to walk rather than take an auto. Unlike the lockdown last year, private vehicles ply without hindrance from either the police or municipal authorities.
Last year, the police would pull up private vehicles and ask the drivers as to their purpose for being on the road. Fines were the order of the day. On this occasion private vehicles are neither stopped nor questioned. However, with most places of entertainment or business shuttered, most people are not inclined to just drive without purpose.
Further, with the price of petrol at Rs99.71 very few car owners would like to take out their cars without a fixed destination in view.
With economic disruption and disruption of supply chains, inflation is on the rise. There is a marginal increase in the prices of several items of daily use. Prices of essential commodities have also risen. However, there is no shortage of essential goods, since agricultural production has not been disrupted. The weather man predicts a normal monsoon and should the weather gods be favorable and bless the country with a good sowing season, agricultural production will continue to be bountiful and will not add to inflationary pressures.
With a stagnant economy, the worst hit are invariably the poor. Is it any wonder that even Bangladesh has a higher per capita income than India? With demand stagnant, in the face of an uncertain future, the promised Rs5 trillion economy of India is but a mirage that will not materialize in the near future!

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