Monday, 30th October 2017

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Sweet shops in Calcutta for timing tweak

Traders write to CM urging her to alter the timings and allow them to keep their shops open from 8am to 1pm

By Kinsuk Basu in Calcutta
  • Published 1.04.20, 2:20 AM
  • Updated 1.04.20, 2:20 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Customers stand on designated social-distancing mats to buy sweets at Balaram Mullick & Radharaman Mullick in Bhowanipore around noon on Tuesday. Picture by Pradip Sanyal

Many sweet shops across Calcutta remained closed on Tuesday and many others failed to draw customers as only a handful of people stepped out of their homes in the afternoon.

The state government had on Monday relaxed lockdown rules for sweet shops, allowing them to remain open between noon and 4pm. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee took the decision in response to a written appeal from owners of sweet shops, who had pointed out that closure of their units was leading to huge loss of milk across Bengal.

On Tuesday, the traders sent another letter to the chief minister urging her to alter the timings and allow them to keep their shops open from 8am to 1pm. The timing, representatives of the Paschimbanga Mistanna Byabasayee Samity said, would help customers as well as owners.

The government is yet to respond to the appeal.

Bengal has over a lakh sweet shops, which collectively consume around 50 lakh litres of milk daily to produce sweets. The bulk of the supplies is sourced from villages in Hooghly, North and South 24-Parganas and Nadia.

In Calcutta, according to the organisation, there are more than 9,000 shops and almost all source their milk from the suburbs. Apart from sweets such as rosogolla and sandesh, they produce some other milk-based items such as paneer.

The sellers had reasoned with the chief minister that closure of all sweet shops across Bengal because of the lockdown was leading to waste of lakhs of litres of milk. The cows will die unless they are milked.

The state government responded on Monday by relaxing the rules and said only packed sweets could be sold and traders and customers would have to maintain social distancing to prevent spread of the coronavirus, which causes Covid-19.

Several shop-owners Metro spoke to said the government had clarified to them that sweets could only be sold in packets. Customers will not be allowed to sit inside shops and eat sweets and other items such as samosa or kachori.

The Paschimbanga Mistanna Byabasayee Samity mentioned in Tuesday's letter to the chief minister that hardly any customer had visited their shops on the first day because most of those who stepped out to buy essentials were back home by 9am.

“It will further add to our losses if we prepare sweets and they remain unsold,” Jagannath Ghosh, the secretary of the Samity, wrote in the letter.

A number of big, medium and even small sweet shops across the city kept their shutters down because the owners said they were unable to arrange transportation

for their staff, most of whom stay in suburbs. Others said it was not possible to procure cottage cheese, the basic ingredient for any sweet in Bengal, from districts at such short notice.

“All my 14 employees have returned home. It is not possible to bring them back because trains are not running. I have been receiving calls throughout the afternoon from my customers and I explained to everyone why it was not possible to open the shop now,” said Pradip Nag of Bhim Nag sweet shop.

Some of the traditional big names such as KC Das and Girish Chandra Dey Nakur Chandra Nandy said they would not open their shops during the lockdown, irrespective of whether cottage cheese was available or not.

“The safety of the customers is foremost on our minds. We can’t risk the credibility of the brand by staying open,” said Dhiman Das, executive director of KC Das.

A few others who opened their units said necessary precautions were taken to ensure customers maintained social distancing while queuing up for sweets. Several shops even arranged for hand sanitisers.

At Bhowanipore, the outlet of Balaram Mullick and Radharaman Mullick witnessed a sizable turnout. People stood in a queue. maintaining distance among themselves. and picked up their favourites after rubbing their hands with sanitiser.

Similar turnouts were also visible at some shops in Jadavpur and Behala. Some of the shop-owners said they would be functioning in full strength from Wednesday.