Bengaluru: In an attempt to accelerate the economy and generate employment, the Karnataka Government on Saturday (January 2) permitted shops and establishments, with 10 or more employees, to function 24×7 on all the days for the next three years. The decision has received mixed reactions as most of the shopkeepers are not interested in round-the-clock business. However, some pubs and restaurants in Bengaluru have welcomed the decision.
The shops registered under the ‘Karnataka Shops and Establishments Act, 1962’ fall under this category. The main aim of this move is to recover the losses that occurred during the lockdown. Karnataka is following the footprints of states such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, and Tamil Nadu, where round-the-clock business is encouraged.
The government's circular mentions that shop owners with less than 10 employees can hire additional staff if they want to run their business at night. Every employee should get a compulsory weekly off and should not be working for more than 10 hours a day, including the overtime of two hours. Written consent of the woman employee is required for engaging her in work after 8 pm. The employer should arrange transportation, restroom, washroom, safety lockers, and other basic amenities for women employees working at night.
The big shopkeepers on BEL Road have a negative response to this initiative. "People generally prefer day-time for shopping. We do not see customers after 8 pm. Our employee strength is less than 10. Currently, we cannot hire more employees as the business is dull. The lockdown has affected our business but keeping the shop open for the entire night is not the solution. Spending quality time with the family is also important for us," says Chandresh Gulrcha, owner of Aaruse, a garment shop.
The small shopkeepers have criticised the requirement of 10 employees for the full-time operation. City mobile shop owner Arshad says, "I and my brother run this shop. The rent of the shop is Rs. 30,000. Earlier we had good business but now nothing is left in hand after paying the rent. We are interested in keeping the shop open till 1 am as people do move about till after midnight. But we cannot hire people and pay them. We do not require more than two people to run this business."
The shopkeepers and restaurant managers in R.T. Nagar believe that keeping the shops and the restaurants open for 24 hours will lead to more expenditure than earnings. FM Silk shop's manager, Mr Yogesh, says, "customers do not have money to spend on shopping. Earlier we had 20 employees but now we have cut the number to eight. I will not keep my shop open at night."
Shanti Sagar restaurant employs more than 20 people. Most of the customers visit in the afternoon and in the evening. According to the manager, the number of customers has reduced post lockdown. The maintenance charges and light bill amount will increase if the restaurant is kept operational at night.
Meanwhile, customers have a mixed opinion. Some people think that this move will generate employment and help shopkeepers to recover their losses. Others are concerned about the social distancing and safety measures.
The police force will be on the streets to maintain law and order during the night. R.T. Nagar Police Inspector Mithun says, "as a police officer, I think wine and liquor shops should be closed at 11 pm. This will help in maintaining law and order. Some shops may extend their timing but only a few shops will be open for the entire night. Initially, it may be difficult to handle the crowd but slowly people will start following rules and regulations."