In the city with the worst traffic in the world, Covid-19 has wrought a miracle — no traffic jams. As malls, offices, schools, and colleges remain shut, the traffic in Bengaluru has fallen by 40-45 per cent. The shops on the normally bustling Brigade Road have been open but with no customer in sight. The line of autorickshaw drivers, who used to park at MG Road, adjacent to Brigade Road, has gone awol.
Church Street, thronged by visitors throughout the day because of its hundreds of cafes and restaurants, was eerily empty. None of the popular eateries — Oye Amritsar, The White Room and Bheema’s — were open.
“Our business has gone down 90 per cent. I do not know if I will be able to pay the salaries of my seven helpers next month. I have requested my landlord to waive the rent at least for next month,” said Shantanu Karmakar who owns a small Chinese food joint on Church Street.
At the famous Empire restaurant on the corner of Church Street, which used to have a waiting time of 20 minutes at lunchtime, three diners enjoyed a solitary meal. Business was down 70 per cent, said the manager. Three kilometres away, the wholesale Russell Market with 400 fruit and vegetable stalls, was deserted. Since last weekend, the stall owners had suffered losses of 70-75 per cent every day.
“The market is losing Rs 7-8 lakh a day. The fish and poultry units have completely shut as there is no business happening with most restaurants closed as they were the biggest buyers,” said Javeed Sait, joint secretary of the Russell Market Association.
Despite the lack of customers, the shops remain open as no order to close has come from the Karnataka government, said Sait. The government has, however, ordered the closure of all malls, theatres, educational institutes and commercial establishments for a week. Later, it extended the partial lockdown to March-end.
The state has so far reported 15 positive Covid-19 cases and one death. Residents have been told to visit relatives in hospital only if absolutely necessary. Friday prayers in mosques have been limited to 15 rather than the usual 60 minutes. The number of worshippers visiting the famous Banashankari Amma temple at Kanakpura Road have decreased by 60 per cent.