Lock­down: It’s a scram­ble for sup­plies

Hindustan Times (Patiala) - - Front Page - HT Correspond­ents [email protected]­dus­tan­times.com

NEWDELHI: Long queues, crowded mar­kets, and ha­rass­ment of e-com­merce and food de­liv­ery peo­ple by po­lice de­part­ments seem­ingly un­aware of what was al­lowedand­what­wasn’t,marked the first day of the three-week lock­down to cease the spread of the coro­n­avirus dis­ease (Covid-19), although by Wed­nes­day evening, some sense of or­der emerged.

There were peo­ple throng­ing mar­kets across the coun­try on Wed­nes­day as they stocked up for sup­plies be­fore shel­ter­ing at home for three weeks to guard against the pan­demic. In various cities, in­clud­ing in Delhi, peo­ple faced trou­ble reach­ing stores as po­lice­men re­fused to let them pass, even beat­ing up some de­spite the govern­ment’s as­sur­ances of no curbs on the pur­chase of es­sen­tial items.

Sev­eral peo­ple who faced ha­rass­ment said the po­lice did not ap­pear to be aware of the govern­ment’s ad­vi­sory. Peo­ple who did man­age to reach lo­cal stores said they feared a wors­en­ing of the sit­u­a­tion as stocks ap­peared to be de­pleted.

To be sure, while some mar­kets were crowded, oth­ers saw peo­ple shop­ping in dis­ci­plined lines, and main­tain­ing a safe dis­tance from each other.

Union food min­is­ter Ram Vi­las Paswan said the govern­ment was mon­i­tor­ing the avail­abil­ity of es­sen­tial com­modi­ties in the mar­ket.

He warned man­u­fac­tur­ers and traders against prof­i­teer­ing dur­ing the lock­down pe­riod.

The Cen­tre is also in touch with the state gov­ern­ments to en­sure there is no short­age of es­sen­tial com­modi­ties, he said.

In an ad­dress to the na­tion on Tuesday, Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi told cit­i­zens to not come out of their houses for 21 days, un­der­lin­ing the grav­ity of the infectious out­break that has killed at least 20,000 peo­ple world­wide. The Prime Min­is­ter did not men­tion the govern­ment’s plan to keep es­sen­tial sup­plies run­ning. Later, how­ever, as news of panic buy­ing across the coun­try emerged, he tweeted to say that they would re­main avail­able.

“No panic buy­ing please,” he said.

No­ti­fi­ca­tions is­sued by the home min­istry too said this.

De­spite Modi’s ap­peal, chaos was re­ported at gro­cery stores, some of which re­ported de­pleted stocks ow­ing to re­stric­tions, and ser­vices of many de­liv­ery out­lets and e-com­merce re­tail­ers re­mained non-func­tional.

Tele­vi­sion vi­su­als showed the po­lice strik­ing peo­ple, who later said they were sim­ply out shop­ping for ne­ces­si­ties.

Online re­tail­ers such as Ama­zon and gro­cery de­liv­ery ser­vices such as Big Bas­ket were can­celling pre­vi­ously placed or­ders and said they did not have new de­liv­ery slots avail­able.

This pushed peo­ple to go out to shop at lo­cal stores, where so­cial dis­tanc­ing was a far cry as peo­ple jos­tled to se­cure fast-dis­ap­pear­ing sup­plies.

BHARAT BHUSHAN/HT

Peo­ple out to buy fruit and veg­eta­bles in Pa­tiala on Wed­nes­day. The res­i­dents across Pun­jab had a tough time as the state govern­ment failed to start doorstep de­liv­ery of essentials.

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