State-wise vari­a­tions in new rules leave cit­i­zens puz­zled

Lack of uni­for­mity in norms gov­ern­ing work­places, public trans­port, mar­ket­places, shops a co­nun­drum

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - HTSPOTLIGH­T - HT Cor­re­spon­dent

NEW DELHI: Can you go to of­fice? Can you drive your car across to the next state, or the next city? Can you take public trans­port? Can you even get a hair­cut?

On March 25, the day In­dia im­posed the lock­down to curb the spread of the coro­n­avirus dis­ease, the an­swer to all these ques­tions was a re­sound­ing no. There was one rule, and all cit­i­zens had to abide by the re­stric­tions.

To­day, even as lock­down 4.0 has got of­fi­cially ex­tended to May 31, the an­swer to the ques­tions is — de­pends; de­pends on where you are and which state ju­ris­dic­tion has adopted what rules.

So if you are in Delhi, you can’t get a hair cut and will have to live with that long beard or un­kempt look for some more time, but if you are in Thiru­vanan­tha­pu­ram, you can walk into a sa­lon. If you are in Gurugram or Noida, you can drive down to Delhi — but if you are in Delhi, you may not be able drive back to Gurugram or Noida. If you are in Ben­galuru, you can work in of­fice at full ca­pac­ity. But if you have an of­fice in Mumbai, your of­fice can only have one-third of the staff. If you are in Kolkata and need to take a quick auto ride with your spouse, both of you can hop in to one auto rick­shaw. But if you are in Delhi, both of you will have to take two sep­a­rate au­tos.

This, of­ten be­wil­der­ing, set of rules sym­bol­ises lock­down 4.0. Ad­vo­cates say it is a bet­ter re­flec­tion of lo­cal re­al­i­ties, with states now hav­ing the power to de­cide zones and ex­tent of ac­tiv­ity in each area; oth­ers be­lieve that this cre­ates con­fu­sion for in­di­vid­u­als, com­pa­nies, and even lo­cal gov­ern­ment au­thor­i­ties.

Take com­pa­nies. A com­pany’s of­fice in Delhi or Ben­galuru may have started func­tion­ing from Tues­day but its of­fice in Mumbai has re­mained closed, due to the lock­down. Ma­ha­rash­tra gov­ern­ment has de­cided to en­force lock­down 3.0 reg­u­la­tions in Mumbai, in which only 33% of work­ers are al­lowed in non-con­tain­ment ar­eas. Eigh­teen of the 27 mu­nic­i­pal cor­po­ra­tions in the state, in­clud­ing all in and around Mumbai, are in the red zone.

“It (re­stric­tions in Mumbai) has cre­ated some func­tional prob­lems for us, as our head of­fice is in Mumbai,” said a Ben­galuru-based sys­tems an­a­lyst, Srini­vasa Murthy, work­ing with a multi­na­tional in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy com­pany. Most com­pa­nies had to in­tro­duce city-spe­cific work­ing pro­to­cols as lock­down norms are not same in all cities. “It has added to our work but we have to deal with it,” com­mented an HR man­ager in a sec­ond Ben­galuru-based IT com­pany, re­quest­ing anonymity. Or take public trans­port. Af­ter 56 days, public trans­port — buses, cabs and auto rick­shaws — re­turned to many cities, with dif­fer­ent city norms. In Kolkata, only 20 pas­sen­gers per bus are al­lowed. In Ben­galuru, buses can run up to half of its ca­pac­ity. Au­tos in Ben­gal can carry two pas­sen­gers and in Delhi only one.

But the ease in curbs has of­ten not trans­lated into pas­sen­gers, for there ap­pears to be cau­tion. Or take in­ter-state travel. While Delhi, Ut­tar Pradesh and Haryana gov­ern­ments have al­lowed in­ter-state travel, the ad­min­is­tra­tions in Noida and Gurugram have pro­hib­ited it. In Ma­ha­rash­tra, even in­ter-dis­trict travel is dif­fi­cult. There is an even big­ger is­sue with long-dis­tance travel, with cit­i­zens at a loss in the ab­sence of clar­ity. KC Jain, a cancer sur­vivor, liv­ing in Vishal

Khand area of Luc­know, wanted to drive down to Jodh­pur to bring his wife back. He ap­plied for an e-pass, which was re­jected. “My wife is stuck in Ra­jasthan for nearly two months,” he said.

Ker­ala and Pun­jab have al­lowed bar­ber shops. Delhi and Mumbai have not. Ut­tarak­hand and Ra­jasthan have come up with strict con­di­tions — only one per­son is to be al­lowed in­side a bar­ber shop at a time and there must be proper pro­vi­sion of masks, sani­tis­ers and ther­mal scan­ners.

UP and MP will al­low sa­lons and bar­ber shops from Thurs­day.

And the ex­pe­ri­ence of a hair cut it­self has changed, for both the cus­tomer and the bar­ber. Joseph Mathew walked into a sa­lon in Thiru­vanan­tha­pu­ram car­ry­ing his own towel, for a hair­cut, his first dur­ing the lock­down, and was sur­prised to find his bar­ber was cov­ered from head to toe in a pro­tec­tive gear. “I never imag­ined such a scene,” he said, as two cus­tomers got their hair done in dis­tant cor­ners.

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