Huge Diwali rush at Delhi markets raises Covid fears

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Markets across Delhi witnessed a huge rush over the last weekend before Diwali, with the market associations struggling to manage the crowds amid the coronavirus pandemic.

IMAGE: Chandni chowk market witnesses a huge footfall of shoppers ahead of Diwali festival, in Delhi on Sunday. Photograph: Prateek Kumar/ANI Photo

The markets that saw huge crowds include Sadar Bazar, Chandni Chowk, Lajpat Nagar, Lal Quarter Krishna Nagar, Karol Bagh, Kamla Nagar, Rajouri Garden and Tilak Nagar.

Sadar Bazar Market Association president Devraj Baweja said it was complete ‘chaos’ as those who thronged the market to do last-minute shopping ahead of the festival hardly followed any COVID-19 protocol.

 

“Festivals generally attract a big crowd but the authorities should have made elaborate arrangements to ensure that people follow Covid-appropriate behaviour. No one was seen wearing a mask or observing social distancing,” he told PTI.

Health experts have already warned about a possible third wave of the pandemic after the festive season and advised strict adherence to Covid protocols.

Last year, after Diwali, Sadar Bazar had emerged as a Covid hotspot and the market was shut subsequently.

Baweja said in the name of arrangements, police have only put up barricades that can stop vehicles, not people.

He claimed that the civil defence volunteers were nowhere to be seen.

“We can only ask those who come to our shops to wear masks. We cannot go check if people walking on the road are wearing masks or adhering to social distancing.

“This exercise should be carried out by the civil defence volunteers, who were hardly seen at the market,” Baweja said.

A similar situation prevailed at the Chandni Chowk market as well.

Chandni Chowk Sarva Vyapar Mandal president Sanjay Bhargava said the crowd has swelled at the market due to Diwali but there is a need to increase vigil by the administration as violations of Covid guidelines are rampant.

“We have issued strict guidelines to the shopkeepers that no one without a mask should be allowed inside the shops and their thermal screening should also be done.

“But we cannot do anything about the unauthorised vendors as they do not follow the Covid norms. The shoppers at such vending kiosks also hardly follow any guidelines,” he said.

Bhargava said at a recent meeting, he had apprised the deputy commissioner of police of the area about the violations of Covid guidelines by the shoppers and urged him to increase vigil and deploy more teams to strictly enforce social-distancing norms at the market.

However, according to traders at the Lajpat Nagar and Karol Bagh markets, the shoppers were largely seen following the Covid guidelines.

Traders Association Lajpat Nagar (TALN) general secretary Ashwani Marwah said as a sign of good business, the market has been buzzing with shoppers this festive season.

He said the market association, along with the administration, is ensuring that the shoppers follow Covid-appropriate behaviour.

“We have, on our own, deployed 10-15 volunteers to manage the crowd and ensure that people wear masks and observe social distancing to the best possible extent. In comparison to 2020 and 2019, this Diwali season is turning out to be good in terms of business,” he said.

Traders at the Karol Bagh market also said they are happy that business is getting back on track this Diwali.

Murli Mani, president of the Ajmal Khan Road Vyapar Mandal at Karol Bagh, said, “Business is picking up this season and to ensure that it does not fall prey to another Covid wave, we have issued instructions to the shoppers to follow social distancing norms.”

“We have deployed 15 guards who educate people about wearing masks and following social distancing. We also give masks for free to those who do not have one,” he added.



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