8-hour curfew relaxation in Chandigarh: Governor backs move, doctor bodies disagree

Published on Mar 29, 2020 01:16 AM IST

‘PRECAUTIONS IN PLACE’: Speaking to the media for the first time about the pandemic, Badnore admits to admn’s failure to deliver essential items at residents’ doorsteps

Punjab governor and UT administrator VP SIngh Badnore addressing the media in Chandigarh on Saturday.(RAVI KUMAR/HT)
Punjab governor and UT administrator VP SIngh Badnore addressing the media in Chandigarh on Saturday.(RAVI KUMAR/HT)
Amanjeet Singh Salyal, Chandigarh | ByAmanjeet Singh Salyal, Chandigarh

Central government’s insistence on ensuring provision of essential commodities for city residents during the coronavirus lockdown, and the UT administration’s failure to deliver door-to-door food items in the first four days of the curfew led to the decision to allow curfew relaxation from Saturday.

Punjab governor and UT administrator VP Singh Badnore shared this at a press conference called on Saturday to defend the administration’s decision to relax the curfew for eight hours between 10am and 6pm.

Admitting to the administration’s failure to deliver essential items like vegetables at people’s doorsteps, Badnore said, “Curfew relaxations have been given to ensure that people have access to essential items. But, all precautions, including social distancing, are being taken.” On Friday, through a video conference, the Cabinet Secretary had highlighted the curfew in Chandigarh, and directed the administration to ensure provision of essential commodities.

The administration has come under severe criticism, including by the doctors’ associations at PGIMER and GMCH, for its decision to allow people to venture out of their houses to buy items of daily need. Badnore was even flooded with WhatsApp messages critical of administration’s move.

After the appeal of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a nationwide lockdown, most states and union territories opted for a lockdown, keeping shops selling essential articles open.

But, in Chandigarh and Punjab a curfew was imposed, and all establishments were shut down. This invited a flurry of complaints about non-availability, poor quality and high prices of essential products, such as vegetables, fruits and medicines. The problem was much worse in Chandigarh’s periphery and villages, where only few chemist shops were open.

“The curfew is still in place. Movement of vehicles is severely restricted. Our focus will be on maintaining the supply chain so as to ensure better pricing. Moreover, the decision (to relax curfew ) is as per the central government’s guidelines to keep essential establishments open. Initially, we considered relaxation for a couple of hours, but decided against it because it could lead to panic buying,” Badnore said.

“For fighting the war against coronavirus, a Corona War Room has been created in my office at the UT secretariat in Sector 9,” the governor said, adding that the room will host a meeting with all officials at 11am daily.

“In this room itself, with the help of NIC, I will monitor the live video stream of various areas of the city, and take speedy decisions,” he added.

“Around 94,000 NRIs came to Punjab, and around 33,000 have been traced so far”, he said, adding, “We don’t know how many of these people came to Chandigarh. We have to find them. Mobile doctor teams will be constituted to find people with Covid-19 symptoms. Such persons will be shifted to the hospital and treated,” Badnore said.

Defending the administration’s decision, PGIMER director Dr Jagat Ram, who also addressed the press conference, said, “It is difficult to please everyone. People were facing problems so administration had to take this decision.”

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