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Tejinder Singh Renu and Dipen Agrawal during the press conference by Sarkar Jagao Vanijya Bachao Sangharsh Samiti (SJVBSS) at Press Club in Nagpur on July 25
Sarkar Jagao Vanijya Bachao Sangharsh Samiti (SJVBSS), a conglomerate of the most affected businessmen due to COVID restrictions since the start of the pandemic, in a press conference on July 25 in Nagpur, slammed the Maharashtra government for keeping Nagpur district under restrictions despite a drastic decline in COVID cases. SJVBSS have also started 'Halla Bol' movement to protest against the government.
The businessmen stated that on June 4 the government of Maharashtra notified a level 5 restriction order, which mentioned local positivity rate, local occupancy rate of oxygen-bed and overall occupancy of oxygen-bed in state as indicators for early warning of surge in positive cases and proportionate change in economic activities (lock/unlock) within the jurisdictional area of concerned District Disaster Management Authority/Local Authority.
Nagpur District being under level 1 on June 4 was expected to resume regular working from June 7, however, DDMA and Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) imposed level 3 restrictions without taking mandatory prior permission from State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA).
After much representations and hue and cry, local administration under their order dated June 18 relaxed working hours from June 21. However, due to 21 cases of COVID Delta Plus variant reported in western Maharashtra, the state government under their order dated June 25, placed the entire state under Level 3 restrictions from June 28 with directions to DDMAs to watch out for two weeks trend before lowering the restrictions.
SJVBSS stated that it is pertinent to note the 7-day average positivity rate of Nagpur district since first formulated by state government. SJVBSS stated:
- On June 3, the positivity rate was 2.43% and still instead of level 1 relaxations, the local authority imposed level 3 restrictions
- On June 21, the positivity rate was 0.58% when relaxations in working hours were given to non-essential services, malls, restaurants and bars and coaching classes. Additionally, relaxations with respect to social gatherings, marriages and many other activities were also given
- On June 28, when level 3 restrictions were imposed across Maharashtra including Nagpur, the positivity rate was 0.41%. Malls and coaching classes were closed; working hours of shops, bars and restaurants were restricted. Gatherings and timings at social events and marriages were restricted too
- On July 12, when additional restrictions were placed on bars and restaurants the positivity rate was 0.32%
- On July 24, the positivity rate of Nagpur District was 0.16%.
- The active cases have come down from 4816 on June 3 to 244 on July 24, 2021
- It is learnt from media reports that Maharashtra Deputy CM Ajit Pawar has decided to relax working hours in Pune, where positivity rate is reported to be 3.49%
- It is undisputed that COVID is going to stay here for a longer period than anticipated and 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th wave of virus is inevitable
In the light of above facts and circumstances, SJVBSS stated that the government and its agencies have pushed the most affected business sectors on verge of collapse. Businessmen are now finding it difficult to maintain their establishments and staff. They are left with no option to relive their employees and few have already closed their operations and ended the services of their employees. If this situation continues for a couple of weeks more, then majority of them will close shop permanently resulting in large scale unemployment and surge in NPA (default in bank loan/EMI).
SJVBSS have started the 'Halla Bol' movement, under which, SJVBSS members have met public representatives (Abhijit Wanjari, Ashish Jaiswal, Dayashankar Tiwari, Devendra Fadnavis, Duneshwar Pethe, Dushant Chatuvedi, Girish Vyas, Krishna Khopde, Krupal Tumane, Mohan Mate, Nana Patole, Nitin Gadkari, Nitin Raut, Parinay Fuke, Pravin Datke, Sameer Meghe, Sunil Kedar, Tekchand Sawarkar, Vijay Wadettiwar, Vikas Kumbhare, Vikas Mahatme and Vikas Thakre) and have submitted a memorandum of demands with specific request to openly stand in support and impress upon the state government to implement relaxations as per order dated on June 4.
SJVBSS convenor Dipen Agrawal stated: "We are responsible citizens first, then businessman. We appreciate the concern of authorities in restricting operations for a certain length of time in apprehension of a rise in COVID-19 cases but this cannot continue indefinitely turning a blind eye to change in circumstances.
Though the policy decision for temporary restrictions may not be termed as arbitrary or discriminatory but the legitimate expectation of business community for fair treatment, in conformity with the ethos of the Constitution of India cannot be denied.
Hence SJVBSS strongly demands that the decision to implement higher-level restrictions should be reviewed and modified particularly for Nagpur district where there is continued decrease in the number of active COVID-19 cases, positivity rate and in occupancy of oxygen beds."
SJVBSS also asked a few relevant questions to the state government:
- Whether the government and administration guarantee that COVID positive cases will not increase if such higher restrictions are placed on economic activities?
- Whether the government and the administration guarantee that COVID cases will not increase when economic activities are resumed fully?
- Whether the government and administration guarantee that even after such restricted working, if the 3rd wave hits the state, the citizens will not encounter the trauma this time as they faced during 1st wave and more during 2nd wave?
SJVBSS added that it is a known fact that during the 1st wave, the Nagpur district community community worked shoulder to shoulder with local administration and NGOs to serve the needy, stranded migrant labours and homeless. During the 2nd wave, the local administration and constitutional courts banked upon the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds of corporates to create instant medical facilities including oxygen supply to mitigate the hardship faced by citizens.
SJVBSS informed that in its endeavour to awaken the government (Sarkar Jagao) so as to preserve the entrepreneurship (Vanijya Bachao), it has decided to demonstrate the resentment of the business community through:
- A peaceful & silent protest march from Samvidhan (RBI) square to the offices of Nagpur Collector and Nagpur Municipal Commissioner on Monday the July 26
- Car/Bike rally on July 27, starting at 1 pm from Hislop College and concluding by garlanding statue of Gandhiji at Variety square. The rally will pass through Law College Square, Coffee House Square, Shankar Nagar Square, Jhansi Rani Square, Panchsheel Square, Mehadia Square, Great Nag Road, Mokshdham Square, Baidyanath Square, Jagnade Square, Gangabai Ghat Square, Telephone Exchange Square, Agrasen Square, Mayo Hospital Square, Ram Jhula, Railway Station Flyover, Manas Square, Morris College T Point before concluding at Variety square.
SJVBSS strongly demanded that the government should immediately announce relief package for the affected entrepreneurs and direct DDMA to implement Level 1 relaxations in Nagpur district with immediate effect, else the protest could intensify and government shall be responsible for the same.
Following trade associations have voluntarily extended their support to Sarkar Jagao Vanijya Bachao Sangharsh Samiti:
2. Chamber of Associations of Maharashtra Industry and Trade (CAMIT)
3. Consumer Products Distributers Association, Nagpur (CPDA)
4. Nagpur Custom House Agents Association (NCHAA)
5. Nagpur Eatery Owners' Association (NEOA)
6. Nagpur Hotel Owners Association (NHOA)
7. Nagpur Mangal Karyalay Lawn Association (NMKLA)
8. Nagpur Photographers & Drone Association (NPDA)
9. Nagpur Residential Hotels Association (NRHA)
10. Nagpur Shipping Lines Agents Association (NSLAA)
11. Nagpur Tent House Association (NTHA)
12. Nagpur Zillah Restaurant Permit-Room Association (NZRPA)
13. Steel & Hardware Chamber of Vidarbha
14. TIE - Nagpur
15. Travels Association of Nagpur (TAN)
16. Vidarbha Amusement & Water Park Association (VAWA)
17. Vidarbha Amusement & Water Parks Association (VAWA)
18. Vidarbha Backstage Association (VBA)
19. Vidarbha Computer & Media Dealer's Welfare Association (VCMDWA)
20. Vidarbha Generator Owners Association (VGOA)
21. Vidarbha LED Association (VLA)
22. Vidarbha Light Owners Association (VLOA)
23. Vidarbha Pen & Stationers Association (VPSA)
24. Vidarbha Wine Merchants Association (VWMA)