Social distancing goes for a toss as curbs lifted; Day 1 of lockdown 3.0 begins on chaotic note
The third phase of nationwide lockdown started on a chaotic note after reopening of Government and private offices, shops, markets and liquor vends on Monday. Social distancing norms were flouted across the country with impunity in both rural as well as urban areas across India.
While people were asked to follow the social distancing guidelines to stem the spread of coronavirus, the norms went for a toss as crowds flocked to liquor vends and people jostled with each other in market areas.
According to officials, there was a noticeable increase in road traffic as non-essential stores lifted shutters and offices opened up. Hundreds of people queued up before liquor shops throwing social distancing norms to the wind.
The easing of the lockdown measures came with its own set of challenges for policemen as they struggled to manage the crowds outside liquor shops and in some areas in Delhi, they resorted to lathi charge to bring the situation under control.
As per the Government notification, shops selling liquor have to ensure social distancing and also make sure that no more than five people are present at one time at the shop.
With the Home Ministry allowing plying of private vehicles in all zones with restrictions, traffic was back on the roads in cities — a departure from the eerie quiet that had descended over them during the 40-day lockdown.
While the restrictions have not been eased in containment areas, movement of private vehicles have been allowed in red zones with two passengers besides the driver for cars (earlier it was just one passenger in all zones) and no pillion rider for motorcycles.
Hours after liquor vends re-opened across India, commotion erupted outside many liquor shops across States, including Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, UP, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana and Rajasthan giving a harrowing time to the police who struggled to keep them apart.
Officials had painstakingly drawn chalk circles for buyers of booze to stand in but the social distancing efforts were thwarted as people gathered from early morning at 7 am.
Long queues were seen outside liquor outlets in Mumbai and Pune in Maharashtra, a day after the State Government said shops of non-essential items, including liquor, will be allowed to open in non-containment zones, but to the dismay of the customers, they remained shut.
Administrations of Solapur, Aurangabad, Jalna, Buldhana and Amravati districts have issued instructions that liquor shops will not be allowed to open. Tipplers queued up outside liquor shops in Dahisar, Matunga, Santacruz, Malwani, Kandivali and other places since early hours of Monday, but found the outlets closed.
Standalone liquor shops in West Bengal reopened on Monday in green, orange and red zones, except in containment areas, but the police closed down several of them within an hour as people started jostling with each other in front of the outlets with social distancing going for a toss.
Chaotic scenes outside liquor stores in some parts of UP were witnessed, while elsewhere serpentine queues were seen long before the outlets opened. Principal Secretary, Excise, Sanjay Bhoosreddy along with officials of the department inspected liquor shops in Lucknow. The UP Government has capped liquor purchase per person.
“At once one person will be allowed to buy one full bottle, two half bottles, three quarters, two beer bottles and three cans only,” the UP Excise Department order said.
Rajasthan also witnessed a similar situation with some people struggling to carry liquor bottles, while a few followed the social distancing norms and stood in circles marked in front of shops and on roads. Pictures showed some people struggling to carry liquor bottles, while a few followed the social distancing norms and stood in circles marked in front of shops and on roads. Policemen were also deployed near the shops to ensure that liquor stores are not crowded.
Select liquor shops in Bengaluru and other parts of Karnataka pulled up shutters, with tipplers thronging them in huge numbers at many places.
There are about 70,000 liquor outlets in the country. Meanwhile, traders’ body Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) on Monday opposed opening of liquor shops across various states amid coronavirus lockdown. The move by States could destroy the advantages accrued from the 40-day lockdown and increase coronavirus cases, CAIT said.
In neighboring Haryana, the shops remained shut as the district excise and taxation department has not received any fresh directive from the State Government. Like Haryana, Punjab has also not allowed the resumption of sale of alcohol.
Tuesday, 05 May 2020 | PNS | New Delhi
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