Living with COVID: Small businessmen pin hope as government starts easing lockdown
Srinagar: Life has come full circle for 28-year-old businessman Owais Farooq of the old city. A wholesaler dealing in juices, he has been bearing the brunt of the back to back lockdowns since August last year.
“I have been incurring losses since August. We have not been able to earn. I am a small businessman and have exhausted all my savings. It is high time that we start our businesses again,” he said.
Come June, Owais is seeing a ray of hope as Jammu and Kashmir government has decided to gradually ease the lockdown albeit with precautions.
Like a true fighter, Owais too has decided to start from scratch. For him, COVID is a reality but the show must go on.
“How long shall we stay at home? We have to make a fresh start. Wearing masks and maintaining social distancing is the mantra. We need to adopt new normal etiquettes and move ahead,” he said.
Under `New Normal Etiquettes’, the government has asked shopkeepers and mall managers to regularly sanitize the commonly used surfaces including counters, switchboards, doorknobs, and premises after the lockdown is eased and markets open.
From using reusable masks to a greeting without any physical contact and from thermal screening to sanitizing commonly used surfaces, the government has come up with detailed guidelines for people visiting public parks, offices, banks, and malls.
“Selective opening and shutdowns should not happen. For example, the civil lines area remains open, but downtown is being asked to remain shut. If there is a lockdown, it should be everywhere. Likewise, if there is a relaxation, it should be everywhere,” said Owais.
Stocks, supplies, and loans are still the issues being confronted by the businessmen in Kashmir. “Now banks are deducting EMIs from our accounts. My two EMIs were deducted unilaterally. I have now given an application for a moratorium. One installment was credited back but there is uncertainty on the second. Plus, supplies from other states are not regular. The government needs to take these issues seriously,” said Owais.
Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) said the government has to open the markets gradually because businessmen have suffered for long.
“We have been shut for the last 10 months. We have suffered huge losses. It is high time that the government allows business. Yes, we should take measures and follow guidelines in letter and spirit,” said Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad, KCCI president.