West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has said sweet shops will be allowed to remain open from 12pm to 4pm across the state amid the Covid-19 lockdown after dairy industry approached the government last week.
The government has been under pressure from the dairy industry which has witnessed a drastic fall in the sale of milk since the 21-day lockdown began on March 25.
Cowshed owners even claimed that some of them sold their cattle to slaughterhouses.
“A lot of farm owners are in trouble because of the lockdown. I was concerned. Bengalis love sweets. So, we decided to allow sweetmeat shops in the neighbourhoods to remain open for four hours in the afternoon,” Banerjee said during a video conference with administrative heads of all districts.
The government order, however, clarified that the shops should have minimum staff and buyers can only take away packed items.
According to the National Dairy Development Board, West Bengal is among the top 10 milk-producing states while Uttar Pradesh tops the list.
Representatives of the dairy industry said 60% of the milk produced in the state every day is used by the sweet making industry but with eateries, hotels and sweet shops closed, this entire milk is getting wasted.
On Monday, some dairy owners in the North 24 Parganas district even poured milk down a drain and demanded relief from the government.
The Jorasanko Milk Merchants Society in Kolkata on March 25 sought the intervention of the chief minister. It even urged and state-owned Mother Dairy to buy all the milk since it has the infrastructure for storage and sales.