Few takers for night shopping as India's capital scraps old rule

Posted: Thursday, September 30, 2004

NEW DELHI (AP) -- Few people took advantage of the government's decision to allow -- for the first time in decades -- late-night shopping in India's capital.

''This city is not safe for women. Who will go out at night and risk being mugged or raped?'' said Suhasini Joglekar, 28, who recently moved to New Delhi from Bombay, which is known for its thriving nightlife.

In the past, authorities have demanded that shops in the capital close at 7:30 p.m., citing security concerns. Only restaurants and movie theaters were exempt. Now, they can stay open until 11 p.m.

But streets were largely deserted and shops empty on Sept. 15, the first night the decades-old ban was lifted.

While shop owners in this city of 14 million will do more business, new regulations also require them to either hire more staff to work in shifts or pay existing employees overtime. Shop owners say this will double their wage bill.

''This is not going to work. We can't keep our shops open so late. No customer is going to come after 9 p.m,'' said Sunil Kumar, 35, a clothes seller at Palika Bazar, an underground shopping complex in the busy Connaught Place shopping district.

Shop owners also worried about security and late-night transportation.

The New Delhi government, however, said it has taken steps to ensure there are enough buses operating until midnight. Until now, most buses end their routes at 10:00 p.m.

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