As Telangana goes into lockdown with a few hours’ notice, push cart vendors selling fruits, vegetables and running food stalls fear economic ruin. “The time is not enough to sell all the bananas,” says Sooraj, a banana seller at Ameerpet in Hyderabad. He had earlier this week invested the little money he had into buying raw bananas, “If i am unable to sell it off in the next couple of days, I don’t have any other option but to dump the bananas and leave home. I have no option but to suffer the losses,” he adds.
After repeatedly claiming that there will be no lockdowns, the Telangana government on Tuesday imposed a 10-day lockdown. The state government hopes the lockdown will help contain the spread of the coronavirus disease. The lockdown will be imposed from May 12, Wednesday, for a period of 10 days until May 22. According to a note issued by the state government, shops and other activities will be allowed only from 6 am to 10 am. That gives essentially four hours for small business owners to operate and make a living.
“This will kill my business,” says Lakshman, owner of Annapoorna Tiffins at Begumpet. “The last lockdown extended for two months and to resume the business, I swiped all my credit cards. This time they claim it will be for 10 days but they may extend it like last year,” he says while adding the neighbouring snack stall which used to be a competition, shut shop owing to fear of another lockdown. “They left back to Rajasthan fearing another lockdown,” he adds.
On April 19, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao had said that there was no question of imposing lockdown in the state. The Chief Minister had then pointed out that COVID numbers had not dropped in states under lockdown. He said in a statement to the press that there were over 25,000 to 30,000 workers from other states working in the agricultural sector. KCR said the state couldn't afford to let them go and not return, like in 2020. "There is a bumper yield of paddy in the state and procurement is on at 6,144 centres in the state. There are hundreds of thousands of people involved in the process. What will happen to the workers who came from other states and are working in the rice mills if lockdown is imposed? The entire paddy purchase process will come to a standstill,” said KCR.
Manmeeth Kaur, the owner of Needs Fast food joint, a family restaurant in Methodist colony says they are unsure of what will happen during the lockdown. “The restaurant has about 12 staff members from Assam, Uttar Pradesh and other states. We took care of them during the first lockdown and we will continue to do so but many of them wish to go home,” he adds.
Long queues could be seen across most supermarkets and departmental stores. Most wine shops across the city too witnessed huge crowds, with fears of a dry day. The state government has allowed the sale of alcohol during the four hours of business.
Suraj, a vegetable vendor from Balkampet busy catering to a crowd of customers panic buying in bulk says, “People are panicking that the prices will rise from tomorrow. The government should have given people more time. At least those who wanted to go home could have gone,” he says.