In a desperate attempt to save jobs of around 50 lakh people, the Shopping Centres Association Of India (SCAI) has written to Maharashtra Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray to reopen malls which have remained shut since March because of the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 has affected 3.47 lakh people and claimed 12,854 lives in the state till now - highest in the country.
"About 5 million jobs (50 lakh) are at stake if malls are not opened at the earliest," the letter warned adding that retrenchment could be seen as early as August. So far, big malls in Mumbai and Thane haven't reported any job loss yet.
The letter added that the lockdown has also put on hold construction of 30 malls and the retail industry has already suffered losses in excess of Rs 1,00,000 crore.
Malls across the country re-opened last month, but Maharashtra govt decided otherwise due to rising number of Covid cases. However, the state has said it is prepared to implement stricter Covid safety norms applied in other cities, such as Delhi, Gurugram, Bengaluru and Lucknow, for reopening malls.
"Maharashtra is a crucial state (for the retail sector). There are at least 75 malls in the state that contribute significantly to the retail economy. Shopping centre have created stringent SOPs (standard operating procedures) which are being followed in letter and spirit. The government should now really look at re-opening malls. Lives and livelihoods are both important," Amitabh Taneja, Chairman of the Shopping Centres Association, said.
According to the SCAI, Maharashtra has more than 75 malls across the state. About 50% of them are in Mumbai Metropolitan Region, including Thane and Kalyan, about 20% of them are in Pune region and the rest of them are in smaller cities including Nashik, Kolhapur, Nagpur and Aurangabad.
Coronavirus cases are on the rise in Pune, and Mumbai's satellite cities of Kalyan and Thane.
Four months into the coronavirus pandemic, Maharashtra is continuing to report an average of 7,000 cases daily making the state government exercise extreme caution, but Health Minister Rajesh Tope recently said they are thinking of re-opening malls soon.
The lockdown, imposed to check the spread of the highly contagious virus, has hit many industries hard with many cutting salaries and jobs to sustain operations.