In a controversial move, the West Bengal government has decided to extend the window for sweet shops to remain open for eight hours now, amid the Coronavirus lockdown. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday said that sweet shops will be allowed to operate from 8 am to 4 pm every day as opposed to the government's earlier allowance of shops to operate for four hours from 12 noon to 4 pm.
Bengal has so far reported 231 confirmed cases of COVID-19 of which 42 patients have recovered while seven have died due to the infection. Kolkata, Howrah, Medinipur East and North 24 Pargana are major hotspot districts in the State with large outbreaks, according to the Union Health Ministry.
The decision soon invited political heat with BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra wondering when has sweet shops "become an essential service?" and taking a swipe at Mamata over the subject. On Twitter, Patra wrote: "From when has “Sweet” become an essential service? Hope this “Sweetness” doesn’t turn the Lockdown into “Sourness”!!"
In an order last month, the West Bengal government allowed sweetmeat shops to operate with minimum staff during the lockdown. Even as the 'mishti' shops do not fall in the list of essential food items, the Mamata Banerjee government has said that they will be allowed to operate everyday for 4 hours and only take-away facility will available.
Mamata Banerjee government took the step after sweet-makers in the State wrote to her earlier, requesting they be allowed to open their shops. As per reports, Paschimbanga Mistanna Byabasayi Samiti had mailed a letter to the chief minister’s office, urging the CM to allow them to operate their shops, citing restaurants, which have been allowed to cater to take away orders. The letter also said that hundreds of litres of milk were being wasted due to a halt in operations.