Mumbai traders, restaurants protest against COVID-19 norms, weekend lockdown

Protests continued in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra opposing the stringent daytime norms, night curfews and weekend lockdowns imposed by the state government to rein in the massive Covid-19 second wave.

Major hotels and hospitality industry associations like the FHRAI, the HRAWI, the NRAI and the AHAR, along with local bodies, organised a silent protest entitled “#MissionRoziRoti to focus on their desperate plight and bid for survival.

Thousands of employees from thousands of outlets took part holding placards, banners, posted messages on social media and appealed to the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government to permit their businesses with the mandated SOPs or they would shut down permanently.

Leaders like FHRAI’s Pradeep Shetty and others said that whenever there is a spike in Covid cases, the hospitality industry is the first to be targeted though it adheres to all protocols and norms.

A majority of the establishments have mounting debts, threats of insolvency and millions of job losses, while many workers have started leaving for their homes again like last year, said HRAWI’s Sherry Bhatia.

Shetty and Bhatia said that in the past one year or so, nearly one-third of all establishments in the country have closed down permanently, 20 percent did not open fully after the lockdown was lifted in phases and the rest are running into huge losses.

Congress state General Secretary Suman Agrawal urged Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to rationalise the current norms by implementing only the weekend lockdown from Fridays 8 p.m. to Mondays 8 a.m. and let all businesses function normally during the weekdays.

Taking up cudgels for the small businesses and traders in the city, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Raj Purohit also led a protest in Mumbai against the government decisions.

He issued a warning to the MVA that if a decision was not taken in the interest of the business community by Saturday, then all businesses would open from Monday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. to defy the government norms.

Terming it a “political lockdown”, Purohit led the business and trading community as they staged a silent protest wearing black bands on the face and mouth to condemn the government for its “anti-business attitude” that has brought them on the verge of starvation and closure.

He called upon the government to allow all businesses to work normally from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. daily so the workers and owners could return home safely before the night curfew hours.

On Wednesday, Thackeray had met a delegation of the retail traders and businesses in Mumbai who had threatened to launch an agitation later this week, but after the CM’s appeal, they deferred it for two days.