Even before Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the country to observe a janata curfew this Sunday, Mumbai had already started taking the threat of coronavirus seriously as traffic and passengers on public transport dwindled over the week. Most offices, especially in the organised sector, are asking employees to work from home.
Malls are shut except for essential items, street food vendors have gone, and the famous khau gallis in market areas are empty. Even parks and beaches are desolate.
With Friday’s decision by the Maharashtra government to close all workplaces till March 31, except shops selling essential commodities and financial markets, will mean that there will be even lesser activity in Maximum City.
C-ward, spread across five sq km in south Mumbai, is the hub for several retail and wholesale markets such as Zaveri Bazaar for jewellery, Lohar Chawl for electrical goods, and Mulji Jetha market for textiles. The area is usually very crowded and sees footfalls in hundreds of thousands including traders, customers, and employees. Even on Thursday, in many of these markets that were open, the customers were missing. On Friday, most shops were shut and the narrow streets empty.
Till Thursday, local authorities’ efforts were to reduce gathering of people, which has now changed to complete closure of commercial premises, including wholesale and retail markets in Mumbai. However, some of the markets had heeded to the government guidance and spun into action. Wholesale food market Agricultural Produce Market Committee in Vashi was kept closed on Thursday to facilitate disinfection and protect participants from coronavirus. The diamond trade had taken steps to decongest the Bharat Diamond Bourse at the Bandra-Kurla Complex and Opera House on Thursday but will now be shut after today’s commercial area lockdown.
Even the number of daily wage earners in these markets such as porters lugging goods has gone down. Around 10,000-12,000 such people are estimated to be working in C-ward alone and half of them are estimated to have gone back to their villages in interior Maharashtra or Uttar Pradesh, given the challenge of procuring food due to closure of eateries.