Street sellers of fruits and juices say the restrictions on business hours, brought in to control the COVID-19 pandemic, are affecting their livelihoods
P. Murugesan, 52, who sells tender coconut on Gandhiji Road in Erode, is likely to be affected by the new restrictions on closure of shops at noon from Thursday. He is among the many street vendors selling seasonal fruits and drinks along the roadside, who want the State government to extend business hours till 5 p.m., as Kathiri Veyil (‘dog days’) have started.
With mercury levels soaring to 38 degrees Celsius on Wednesday, the demand for watermelon, mosambi (sweet lime), mulampalam (muskmelon), noongu (palmyra fruit), buttermilk, sugarcane juice, tender coconut, cucumbers and kambam koozh (pearl millet porridge) is also on the rise. Temporary shops selling these items are seen in the city and on the outskirts.
“Last year’s lockdown completely affected our business. We only started to recover slowly now. But, we fear the restrictions in business hours will further affect us,” said Murugesan.
With the start of Kathiri Veyil, more people visit these shops to keep themselves cool and hydrated. “Our main business is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” said P. Mariyamma, who sells sugarcane juice in Solar. She said that business had dropped by over 70% in the current season and the little earnings would ensure proper food for her family every day. “Due to the increase in temperature, customers started visiting the juice stalls and these restrictions will halt the business completely,” she said.
Vendors say there is no over-crowding in the roadside shops and wanted the government to extend business hours for them as juices and other drinks are essential during summer. “Even if people stay indoors, they need refreshments to tackle the scorching heat”, said Pushpa, who sells watermelon on Karur Bypass Road. She said that the price of watermelon and sugarcane juice is affordable for even the poor and wanted their business hours to be extended.
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