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LAHORE: With less than a week left for the Independence Day celebrations, the buying of decorative items is gaining momentum in the city and the seasonal traders, who set up stalls in various retail and wholesale markets ever year, are expecting a good business this time as they could not secure a decent money during the last year when the first and aggressive lockdown was imposed to contain the coronavirus surge.

A visit to various markets conducted by this scribe observed that the buying of decorative items related to the Independence Day is in full swing, but in sheer violation of social distancing and facemask restrictions imposed by the government amid uptick in confirmed Covid-19 cases. Even the traders were not adhering to the SOPs.

This time, facemasks printed with national flag and Minar-e-Pakistan were most popular among the buyers as compared to the buntings and national flags. Interestingly, Urdu Bazaar, the Punjab’s leading wholesale paper market, was short of the facemasks while those who had ready-to-fix buntings were demanding prices of their choice.

However, the facemasks were available at retail markets and traders were demanding Rs 50 to Rs 60 for a single piece as compared to the ordinary one which is being sold in the market at Rs 10. Moreover, a pack of good quality ready-to-fix bunting was being sold at Rs 550-600 while a pack of ordinary bunting was being sold in between Rs 150-300.

Similarly, a full size national flag was available at Rs 1300 per piece and pressure horns were being sold from Rs 100 to Rs 300. The traders were offering an extensive range of decorative items for girls while there were a few things for boys.

Ashfaq Ahmed, who sets up decorative items stall every year at Urdu Bazaar, tells this reporter that the response of buyers was very welcoming as compared to the previous year. “We could not secure decent money last year because the government had imposed a complete lockdown and people who had lifted the stock remained in distress,” he said as he was not wearing a facemask. No firecrackers were available in the market. Ali Ameer, a customer at Urdu Bazaar, said he came to the market to buy special facemasks printed with national flag and Minar-e-Pakistan but he was surprised to know that the province’s largest wholesale paper market was ran short of the item.

It is worth mentioning that the city district administration had not set up any screening or vaccination centre in any market through the confirmed virus cases are surging sharply. The people were moving freely shoulder-to-shoulder along with their children. Anjuman-e-Tajran Urdu Bazaar and All Pakistan Paper Merchants Association senior leader Khamis Butt while talking to Business Recorder said that they were expecting a good business activity this year. He said the previous week saw a welcoming response of buyers and the situation in the market was still “good”. When asked about the measures taken to contain the coronavirus in the market, Butt said that the “satisfactory” arrangements have been made to protect the people. He added that the lower strata of society is still resisting to get vaccinated and they cannot forcefully vaccinate anyone, except those who are willing.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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