Patriot visits some of Delhi’s busiest markets to assess the severity of the situation
We visited three of the popular markets of Delhi: Janpath, Lajpat Nagar and Sarojini, which have at some point been ordered to close for violating Covid-19 norms. We found most shopkeepers and patrons adhering to masking up (while not all), but crowds were evident and the national sport of spitting, prevalent.
According to the Delhi police, they issued a total of 763 challans on July 28. This includes 662 mask violations, 50 challans doled out for social distancing violations, 32 challans for spitting, and 19 for consumption of liquor, pan, gutkha, tobacco.
This does not account for the challans issued under the various district administrations. These administrations have also been key to closing down markets which have been found in violation of Covid norms.
Janpath, one of the markets ordered to shut down by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) in its order on July 12, saw it revoked by the Delhi government a few hours later.
The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) in its order on July 12 had stated, “The Janpath market is, hereby, closed till further orders for violation of DDMA order and for not following COVID appropriate behavior norms. The Director (Enforcement), NDMC and SHO, Connaught Place are hereby directed to enforce the order with immediate effect and submit a compliance report.”
Instead, later, the Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) office warned the market associations and shopkeepers to strictly follow the Covid-19 rules and protocols.
Now, a few weeks later we find a good number of people on a weekday, late afternoon, thronging the little nooks selling clothing. Masks were up for most, with the exception of a few shopkeepers and also shoppers.
Next, we visited markets like Lajpat Nagar, and Sarojini Nagar, which are notorious for their heavy crowds. Lajpat was closed down on July 5 for violating Covid norms. After two days however, this was lifted after the market association’s letter ensuring they would take care of it.
The order stating its opening said it was allowed to reopen, provided that six conditions were met. These include measures to ensure social distancing, mandatory thermal screening, and mandatorily wearing masks. It stated that no shopkeeper is allowed to operate outside his allocated shop, entry and exit should be manned and the number of visitors be regulated by the market association and the police.
The entry to the market, although it had police barricades, had no one manning them. We found a couple of shops with the sign “no masks, no entry”, but found many shoppers on the street with their masks down.
The most violations we found were at Sarojini Nagar market which also happens to be one where the market association protested the move to shut the export market down.
The order to close the export market in Sarojini Nagar was delivered on July 17 for “gross” violation of the Covid-19 norms. The order was issued by the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Ankur Prakash Meshram who conducted a survey of the area.
By July 19, the market associations decided to shut the entire market until the Export Market was allowed to reopen. Then on July 21, a new order allowed the market to reopen, if certain conditions were followed. This includes ID cards for all the shopkeepers and police would allow only shopkeepers who have these cards inside the premises. Also, shopkeepers would ensure that the porch area in front of their shop is free from encroachment and only limited staff would be deployed inside shops.
We found the market in terms of space, very different from how it used to be. Hawkers crowding the streets with their wares were very few. However, even on a weekday, keeping up with its reputation of an overcrowded market space, shoppers were undeterred by the rains.
Again, we found some shopkeepers/ employees and shoppers without masks. But what we became most weary off was the incessant spitting happening around. A virus which spreads rapidly through aerosols or droplets containing it, a violation such as spitting is deadly.
With Delhi having witnessed a deadly second wave in April and May, with over 28,000 one day positive cases, having marketplaces and also its patrons complacent about following Covid safety norms is dangerous.
The Delhi police on its part has since April 19 of this year till June 28 prosecuted over 1.6 lakh people for mask violations (1,62,335). The other offences like not following social distancing norms has seen 26,025 violations, cases prosecuted for large public gatherings/ congregations has been 1,556, for spitting a lowly number of 658, for consumption of liquor, pan, gutkha, tobacco etc a total of 1,279 violations.
All photos (except cover image) by Sashikala VP
(Cover: Sarojini market// Credit – Getty Images)