After going through a long stretch of bad times almost throughout the last year, the shopping business has now ground to a halt. Last year, the anti-pandemic order in force was a half-heartedly followed shutdown. With the mainstream Eid-ul-Fitr markets completely shut in Dhaka, people found some of the shopping areas open to cater to them. The open-air markets in the older part of the capital could claim that they were at least able to keep the tradition of Eid shopping alive.
Commensurate with the worsening of the Covid-19 situation and a hard lockdown in place, the Eid markets can hardly be expected to be abuzz with shoppers this year. What it boils down to is the feared recurrence of the last year's gloom.
Instead of the shopping malls and marketplaces remaining filled with shoppers, the places are now left in desolation. However, as per a government decision, the malls have been allowed to open from Sunday. Or else,it would have been two consecutive years without Dhaka's mainstream Eid-time shopping.
This festive feature has distinguished Dhaka for half a century, beginning with the fast rise of the affluent urban middle class. At the same time,one cannot be expected to be vocal about the grim turn of things. It has nothing to do with any vested interest group who are eager to see the market remains off-limits to the crowds of people. It's a deadly pandemic and its potential for playing havoc with the people's physical wellbeing, as well as the future of businesses, which has prompted the situation to take this grim turn.
To be specific, the administration has been compelled to declare a harsh and stringent lockdown. They appear to be far from being fully successful in reining in the movement of people. But when it comes to shutting the operation of the upscale markets and shopping arcades, the administration can lay claim to their share of credit. Since March in 2020, shopping malls and similar complexes have been facing a part-open and part-shut situation. It has led to great business losses incurred by the shop owners.
Given the full-scale assault of the novel corona pandemic on Dhaka, the coming days of Eid shopping are feared to be stuck in a fraught situationonce again. In an unpredictable state like this, the Eid-time dress makers and wholesalers and other entrepreneurs find themselves in a fix. They have yet to receive any positive hints from the authorities about the pre-Eid shop running. The administration is also in a fix. They know they cannot play any strong role in the much-talked-about decision on the relaxation of the lockdown for a few days before Eid. It could be a good idea.
But everything depends on the behaviour of the pandemic in Bangladesh. Understanding the possible trajectory of the scourge has now emerged as the fulcrum. All decisions on the opening of the shopping malls or keeping them shut like in the previous year are hinged on the future levels of the intensity of the pandemic. In such a volatile situation, if the administration orders that all enterprises engaged in making special dresses, shoes and other festival paraphernalia suspend their activities, they have to comply with the directive, though grudgingly. But they are also aware of the relevance of the order.
What might prompt them to be circumspect are the worries that the pandemic may not see a remission soon. A most critical aspect of the matter is the Eid-ul-Fitr festival has for ages been the largest of celebrations in this land.It requires thehighest level of wisdom and pragmatism in taking a decision on opening theEid markets. Festive mood, theresurgence of the badly-hitEidcommerce and pandemic spectre are entwined with it.