Diwali 2020: Festival of Lights turns dimmer

No space for social distancing in the markets of Delhi

Society

November 10, 2020

/ By / New Delhi

With barely four days to go for Diwali, shoppers seem to be returning to Delhi’s markets. But shopkeepers say sales continue to be at historic lows, while shoppers complain of high prices amidst lower budgets.

(MIG photos-Aman Kanojiya & Danish Mohamed)

It is that time of the year when brands give large discounts, bright lights illuminate markets, shops are dressed up in colourful decor and when shoppers spend time looking for a wide variety of gifts for their loved ones.

However, festivities this year are under a dense cloud. The coronavirus pandemic that has ravaged through the country for the better part of the year has hit the markets in an unprecedented manner. On the one hand a part of the shoppers are staying put at their homes due to the fear of infection, while others who are out for shopping are as mindful of the infection as they are of their budgets, that have been brutally curtailed by the worst economic crisis to have hit the globe ever. The shopkeepers say that the sales during the high season this year are not a patch on what they normally record in this period.

“Due to the coronavirus pandemic this year, our wholesale business is down by at least 90 pc as earlier we used to get buyers from all over the country, but now due to difficulties of travelling and fear of the pandemic our buyers are almost entirely from NCR or Haryana. Earlier, we used to be busy till 21:00 or so, but now by 1630 the market is empty and we close up earlier and go home,” says Rakesh Jain of Sarovar Textiles.

In New Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar, the fear of Covid-19 seems to have receded for most shoppers as even when the number of Covid-19 cases are rising with every passing day, the spirit of at least some shoppers has not dampened. Even though the protocol like wearing masks was followed by most of the shoppers, there was hardly any space for social distancing. The shoppers say that they are trying to put their fear behind and come to shopping but following some basic norms like wearing masks.

“Diwali this year is very different from the past as everyone is trying to follow the safety and hygiene rules. We are also wearing masks and after some time it does get tiring,” says Akshay Dilawari who has come with his friend Anjali Rana for Diwali shopping to the Lajpat Nagar market. “Due to salary cuts, we are watching our budgets this year and also I believe that many shopkeepers are charging higher prices this year,” they say.

For Babita Aggarwal of Zaya, a dry fruits store, Diwali is by far the busiest season of the year and the shop generally makes between INR 500,000-10,00,000 per day during the festive season. “However, this year due to the Covid-19 very few people are venturing into the market and even those who come have seen their budgets slashed dramatically. So how can people celebrate festivals without any money or with the fear of infection,” asks Aggarwal.

With less than a week before the Festival of Lights, the mood in markets across the Indian capital and indeed the entire nation seems to be unusually dark. Though they may be on the opposite sides of the cash counters, the shoppers and the sellers hope that upcoming festivals will bring them happy tides and put the ugly memories of Covid-19 well behind them.

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