Sundays were the most profitable days for 45-year old Susen Dutta who owns a cloth shop near the weekly bazaar in lower Assam’s Bongaigaon district. He would bring the latest fashion clothes from the state’s capital and northeast’s biggest city Guwahati every fortnightly while his wife Arti Dutta would tend the shops in his absence.
“It’s been 17 Sundays now since I had last opened my shop,” said Dutta, who is confined to home due to the state-wide lockdown for about four months now. He had planned to upgrade his 6-year-old daughter to a private school next year with the money he would earn in the Durga Puja sale.
“But, now, with the inter-district travel restrictions on passengers, I can’t even go to Guwahati to replenish my stocks,” said Dutta, who was hopeful the COVID crisis will be over before the festive seasons in October.
Assam chief secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna through a notification had on Wednesday restricted all inter-district movement barring “emergency service vehicles” The prohibition which was informed by the Chief Secretary on July 18 to contain community spread of COVID-19 will remain in force until further orders.
“Small shop owners don’t depend on cargo vehicles. Most retailers personally go to the stockists and bring the products. This is the time when we bring in most our products for the festive seasons,” Dutta said. His wife, who knows a little tailoring, is now the sole earner in the family, who makes alterations in clothes of the people living in the neighbourhood.
The inter-district has also hit Mausumi Hazarika of upper Assam’s Jorhat, whose primary source of income was through online hospitality site Airbnb where she had put her house on rent to guests.
“I had no hopes from tourism, but, after relaxations in inter-district movement, I received a few bookings by medical representatives and sales managers who often have to travel the length of Assam to promote their products. With the restriction, those are stopped again,” Hazarika, a single mother said.
Barring Guwahati, where community spread of COVID was recorded since June 15, in rest of the state, inter-district travel was relaxed under close surveillance from mid-April.
The Assam chapter of All India Professionals Congress (AIPC) criticised the restrictions as an “unnecessary confusion” that is adding to the misery of common people.
“Instead of such lockdowns, the state should concentrate more on testing people and find ways so that people can move and conduct business. Lockdowns and restrictions have been imposed for over four months and yet, cases are only increasing,” Gaurav Somani, president of Assam chapter, said.