Lockdown: It’s a scramble for supplies
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.
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.