The landmark proposal of the Ministry of Labour & Employment, headed by Bandaru Dattatreya, allowing shops and business establishments to remain open 24x7, has failed to enthuse the traders’ community.
The Union Cabinet recently cleared the Model Shops and Establishments (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Bill, 2016, giving freedom to shops to operate 24x7, 365 days a year. If implemented, it has the potential to completely change the working environment in the country. However, the idea has failed to excite traders, who want the government to talk to stakeholders before implementation of the measure.
After the Bill was approved by the Cabinet, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), an umbrella body of retail traders, sought response from its different state units and so far the response has been negative. “These state units are ‘least interested’ in the proposal. We are waiting for more responses as the last date is 25 July (for getting feedback), after which we will come out with a structured response,” said Praveen Khandelwal, CAIT secretary general.
Khandelwal wondered how this sort of a proposal was mooted without talking to the traders’ community. “It’s not a small decision. Its impact will be far-reaching. I wonder if a proper impact assessment was made before bringing the issue before the Cabinet. The government should first do a pilot project,” he said, adding, “it seems it has been done to promote the business of big shopping malls.”
Earlier, Dattatreya had termed the move as a “bold step” toward employment generation. “It will also give a boost to employment opportunities to women as they will be permitted to work during night shifts with adequate safety and security provisions. It will cover only shops and establishments employing 10 or more workers, except manufacturing units,” he had said.
Traders feel that since they do not have enough manpower, it will not be feasible to keep shops open at night. Moreover, according to them, security at night is a big problem as the “atmosphere is not safe even during day hours at a majority of places in the country”.
“I don’t understand from where this idea has come to the Ministry. At least, we have not heard about such a provision in any part of the world. In a country like the US, of course, such a thing can be seen at some specific business locations where shops are open 24x7. India has good weather conditions and there is no need to keep shops open at night,” Khandelwal said.
The Model Bill, according to the Ministry, is aimed at improving the working conditions of workers, creating more job opportunities for women and providing a favourable environment for doing business. The provision of operating 24X7 is expected to boost the retail market across the country and will give customers the flexibility and convenience to shop any time. The Bill will be sent to the states that will modify their individual Acts, if they so desire, either by adopting the Bill as it is or after modifying its provisions as per their own requirement.