Valley residents decry weeklong closure of groceries, call the decision “illogical and impractical”

A grocery store in Kathmandu. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Prasun Sangroula

  • Read Time 2 min.

Kathmandu: The decision to disallow the operation of grocery and department stores in Kathmandu Valley for a week has met with widespread criticism from the public.

The decision was announced on Tuesday through a joint press release issued by the chief district officers of the three districts inside the Valley.

The statement said that the decision was taken to curb the spread of the virus. On Thursday, Kathmandu Valley recorded a total of 2,367 Covid cases, including 1,738 in Kathmandu, 364 in Lalitpur, and 265 in Bhaktapur. Lockdown in the Valley has been extended to June 3.

The joint statement implied that the public purchased enough goods beforehand to last a week until the lockdown is eased. As a result, stores on Wednesday and Thursday were seen teeming with a crowd of panic buyers.

But members of the public and grocery store owners have decried the decision as “impractical”.

“I still don’t have an idea what I should do from tomorrow,” said Sorup Thapa, owner of Saraswati Kirana Pasal in Balkot, Bhaktapur, “The decision is very illogical and impractical.” 

Customers wait for their turn at a grocery shop. (Photo courtesy: Suman Kaji Sthapit)

Like many other shops across the Valley, Thapa’s store saw heavy footfall on Wednesday and Thursday. Thapa sells not just groceries but essential everyday goods such as water jars and cooking gas. “Are the public not allowed to purchase water jars either?” Thapa said, “The decision is baffling and doesn’t make any sense.”

The decision has sent Nepalis on social media into a frenzy, with many questioning the reasoning behind the “senseless” and “ad-hoc” decision-making.

Sabina Chitrakar, the owner at Hanumante Store in Bhaktapur, echoed Thapa and dubbed the decision “confusing and disappointing.” 

The decision has sent Nepalis on social media into a frenzy, with many questioning the reasoning behind the “senseless” and “ad-hoc” decision-making.

Bishow Parajuli, UN’s World Food Programme Representative to India, wrote on Twitter: “How are people expected to get their basic necessities: food & vegetables. What’s about farmers selling vegetables & other perishable products? What will they do with their products in stock?”

One Facebook user, Ramesh Adhikari, penned an open letter addressed to the CDO of Kathmandu.

“The senseless orders of yours to hoard enough goods that can last for a week has gathered a crowd in departmental and grocery stores, and it has increased the risk of spreading the virus,” the letter reads, “The order has violated the existing laws…You are requested to provide clarification on why you should not be punished for your orders.”

Earlier the stores were allowed to open till 10 am. 

Speaking to Nepal Live Today, Dr Sameer Mani Dixit, Director of Research at Center for Molecular Dynamics Nepal, said that the decision was “totally unwanted, insensible and unscientific.”

Dixit added that the decision would likely be counterproductive. “For the last few days, the rate of infections was on the decline,” he said, “The gathering of crowds in stores on Wednesday and Thursday risks undoing the hard-earned gains of the lockdown.”