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Traders brace for heavy losses as Covid hits Holi for second consecutive year

Traders' associations estimate the impact on businesses could be around Rs 25,000 crore this year, as against a hit of around Rs 20,000 crore in 2020.

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New Delhi: Holi celebrations across the country are likely to be muted Monday amid the second Covid-19 wave, marking the second consecutive year that the pandemic will take a toll on the major spring festival observed with colours, sweets and community get-togethers.

With many states and Union Territories — including Delhi, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Delhi — imposing restrictions on Holi celebrations in line with central government guidelines, which also cover other festivals, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) estimates a hit of around Rs 25,000 crore this year.

Last year, CAIT said, traders lost close to Rs 20,000 crore as Covid resulted in a relatively toned-down Holi.

The Covid-19 lockdown was only imposed towards the end of March last year. However, by the time Holi arrived on 10 March, quite a few Covid-19 cases had been reported in the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among those who decided against participating in Holi programmes in view of the pandemic. 

This year, with Covid-19 cases again seeing a surge since the end of February, governments across states and UTs imposed restrictions on celebrating festivals in public and large gatherings ahead of Holi.

Also read: India to see strong recovery, GDP growth could be higher than predicted 11%: Sanjeev Sanyal

‘Threat of unsold inventory’

Typically, during Holi, sales of colours, toys like ‘pitchkari’ and balloons see a sharp surge. Trader associations say traders had stocked up in advance for sales during Holi, but are now faced with the threat of unsold inventory.

Speaking to ThePrint, Praveen Khandelwal, CAIT secretary general, said the impact on businesses will be more adverse this year than last year.

“Last year, after the PM’s appeal, the size of the Holi gatherings reduced, but many still took place. There were no official guidelines in place banning such gatherings. That is not the case this year as many states have banned Holi gatherings,” he said. 

Khandelwal added that around 40,000 gatherings take place across the country during Holi with around 3,000 in Delhi itself.

“It is not only the sale of colours, toys and food items that have been impacted. These large gatherings also employed musicians for entertainment and caterers for helping with the food arrangement,” he added.

The fresh restrictions announced by the central and state governments came after a deluge of new cases were reported, especially in Maharashtra. India began vaccinating its citizens from 16 January.

A 25 March report by the State Bank of India estimated that India’s second wave could see an additional 25 lakh cases being reported. The report added that the number of cases could peak by mid-April and gradually decline by end=May.

As of 28 March, India had more than 4.86 lakh active Covid-19 cases with more than 6 crore people vaccinated, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

(Edited by Debalina Dey)

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