The Union cabinet approved the Model Shops and Establishments Bill on Wednesday. What it translates to is the 24*7 availability of all services and goods you could avail at a payment. The Bill gives freedom of choosing operating hours to banks, shops, restaurants, movie halls and malls. This is where I smell the fish. This law will discreetly allow establishments employing 10 or more workers to operate through the year. The catch here is ’10 or more workers’
The Lala down my street (thankfully) has a small family of 5 only and they are not all employees on paper. The lady holds fort only when Lala is not available and the three kids turn up occasionally when their parents are not around or when they themselves have holidays or nothing better to do.
The local theatre which has been screening movies since before I was born has more than 10 employees but I’m not sure whether they will be able to pay for all the extra hours of work and the allied utility bills if they function all 365 days and 24 hours, because the marginally higher income will not be equivalent to the marginal profits (if any).
At the rate at which obesity is becoming a health hazard in India, I really don’t think 24*7 restaurants will do us all any good. I remember my mom scoffing at me for untimely munching sessions, telling me that God created the 24 hour cycle to give us enough time to work, enjoy and rest and that lights out meant time to rejuvenate not to self-indulge. For those who really need to eat out after the normal hours of operation of restaurants in India, i.e. between 11 pm and 8 am, news flash – there have always been 24*7 coffee shops in all 5 star hotels everywhere in the country, there is some or other kind of local snack seller who will be doling out goodies even at unearthly hours and if none of this works you can actually utilize the subsidized LPG cylinder at home to prepare a little something to whet your appetite. Spare the poor lads who will have to work the graveyard shifts to cater to your nightly sojourns of binging with friends. Their young minds will be more productive in the mornings if they get a good night’s sleep.
Talking about banks, yes, a lot of us holding accounts in the nationalised banks of India will be very happy even if they operate on extended hours but there is little chance that they will see overnight customers. Moreover, there will be a lot of investment required for security arrangements given the breaches that have happened ever so often in the past in broad daylight. Has the cabinet not heard about the joys of internet banking?
Now, from where I stand, I see malls as the single most beneficiaries of this new ruling. Cities in India that have at least one operational mall can be counted on fingers. Most of the malls are in the seven major metro cities of the country. The land they are built on or the realty owners are a just a couple of developers who own and rather monopolise the business of mall operation. True, that all international brands find place to showcase their latest products under one roof, but it is also a reality that the electricity and water consumed by these humongous concrete structures are as such eating into the share of the common man. Where, there is lack of electricity, malls runs on generators which operate on diesel. I leave it to you to ponder up on the consequences. Another issue would be patron’s safety. Imagine a scenario – You watch a movie with a group of friends in a 24 hour mall and come out of the theatre at say 4 am, you feel like a drink and grab a beer or two in the 24 hour joint in the mall itself, then in an inebriated condition you and your friend fall into a tiff with another group and it is 6 in the morning.so you end up facing a new day at the nearest police station. Ideal! Isn’t it?
Do not assume I’m not pro development. Believe me, after a hectic day of work at home and office I myself have wished a thousand times that my favourite spa would be open at 11 pm so that I may have a relaxing massage and come home to fall asleep on my bed. There have been times when I wanted to be ready for a day wedding at 9 am but alas, the salon only opens at 10.30. But, I have never felt the need of buying lingerie from a shop in the mall at midnight. For that I have online shopping at the click of my palmtop.
My point is, that the government should prioritise as to what services are seriously required round the clock and then make them available to the public.
The centre is now sending the bill to all states and union territories that they may choose to adopt it in the current form or to make desired changes. The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has also warned the government of far reaching consequences of the bill and also suggested that this model be first tested on a few cities to assess its impact.
I personally feel that with advancement in technology as we have more and more time to ourselves, we keep finding newer ways to make ourselves even busier and in this process become part of a never ending cycle of desire and fulfilment. Though a city that never sleeps may seem like a very enticing idea at first but if you delve deeper, you may realize that there are some luxuries not so necessary for an easy life.
1 July 2016