City News

Marriage hall owners reject new SOPs

The Karachi Marriage Hall, Lawn, Banquet Owners Association had outright rejected the National Command Operation Centre’s (NCOC) new standard operating procedures (SOPs) regarding marriage halls to contain the second wave of Covid-19.

The association held a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Saturday and termed the recent SOPs tantamount to economic marginalisation of the wedding hall owners and caterers.

The association said that the new SOPs would only economically marginalise the wedding hall owners and caterers but thousands of their employees and other businesses associated with them. Karachi Marriage Hall, Lawn, Banquet Owners Association President Rana Raees said they considered the recent SOPs against the constitution of Pakistan as the constitution granted everyone the right to lawful employment.

He explained that wedding hall owners and their thousands of employees had already faced a severe economic crisis when all the halls were closed between March 13 and September 15 during the lockdown period.

He added that even when the halls were reopened, they did not have enough businesses opportunities as weddings were not taking place after September 15 due to Muharram and Safar, during which people usually do not prefer holding marriage ceremonies.

Raees said the business of marriage halls was future-based and their halls and banquets had to be booked three to four months prior to the event.

Bookings that took place after September 15, were supposed to take place after November 15 or even later, he said, adding that under such circumstances, closing down marquees and banquets after November 20 and encouraging wedding ceremonies to take place in streets and open grounds was tantamount to deliberately

destroying their industry.

He explained that alone in Karachi there were around 800 wedding halls and banquets with which the livelihood of more than 50,000 people and their families was linked. “Around 70 to 80 per cent of our employees work on daily wages,” he said, adding that the earning of such employees depended on daily events.

Most of these daily wagers, he said, had suffered the most due to the massive lockdown earlier this year.

According to Raees, there were roughly 13,000 wedding halls in the entire country, with which 650,000 labourers were directly linked. Fifty per cent of the city’s industries, he pointed out, were directly and the rest of the 50 per cent were indirectly linked with wedding halls, he claimed. With the closure of the wedding halls due the Covid-19 pandemic, he said millions of labourers would be directly or indirectly affected.

Naming the industries that were linked with marriage events, he said the caterers, poultry, livestock, sweets, saloons, designers, jewellers, photographers, garments, sound system, milk shops, furniture, electronics, car renting, valet parking service, fabrics and curtain industries would be directly or indirectly affected with the closure of the marriage halls.

“Our businesses hardly took off and now new SOPs are being imposed on us,” he said.

Raees lamented that on the one hand, the wedding halls were being blamed for the spread of COVID-19 and on the other hand, religious gatherings and political rallies were taking place frequently across the country and nowhere in sight was the implementation of SOPs in such events.

Even in railways, aeroplanes and public transport, the passengers had to travel while sitting alongside each other in an air-conditioned environment, he said, adding that if indeed air conditioners were the cause of the spread of Covid-19, they should be banned in hospital wards as well.

The government, which should be a role model, had itself failed to limit the number of people attending its political gatherings and implement the SOPs, he said.

“We want to bring this into your knowledge that wedding halls is the only industry which didn’t get any relief from the government since the lockdown of March 13,” he claimed and lamented that whatever relief the government gave in the form of concessions in rent, utility bills and salaries, it did not help the wedding hall owners.

He said that even when their halls were allowed to open after September 15, they were sealed and fined in the city repeatedly in the name of SOPs violations.

He requested Prime Minister Imran Khan, the chief justice of Pakistan and army chief to look into the miseries of the wedding hall owners and their employees. “We demand SOPs be drafted for wedding ceremonies after taking us on board,” he said.

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