Mumbai sees deserted streets, chaos on Day 1 of partial lockdown
It seemed a normal work day for Bhaskar Sawant, manager of an optician’s store at Parel in central Mumbai, till a police constable walked in. “The policeman told me there was a mini lockdown due to surge in Covid-19 and I needed to close down my shop till April 30,” rued Sawant. Sawant was under the impression that there would be a complete lockdown only on Saturdays and Sundays, while on other days, he would have to close by 8pm considering the night curfew in place. “How can we survive with such lockdowns? We could hardly survive last year somehow and any new one means massive losses,” rued Sawant.
Similar confusion was witnessed in the adjoining Hindmata market. On being asked to down the shutters, the shop owners reached the Bhoiwada police station, but were told sternly that a mini lockdown was in place and only essential items are allowed.
Across the state, traders resorted to sloganeering and protesting against the mini lockdown. The wholesale markets across the states however had announced the closure and many even closed their main shutters.
Protests were held across the state at various places like Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Nagpur and Satara where traders were seen holding placards and sloganeering against the government.
By afternoon, a majority of Mumbai wore a deserted look as shops were closed down and there were hardly any people on the streets. The wholesale markets which are normally full witnessed hardly any citizens.
Nirmal Nahar, a cloth wholesaler from the Mangaldas market at Kalbadevi, who says that lockdown has come at the wrong time. “This is a wedding season and even Ramzan festival is arriving next week. This complete closure means total loss for me,” said Nahar. “The problem is if we shut shop, our consumers will buy from Gujarat.”
On the streets, the citizens were also worried about the fall out of this mini lockdown. “We faced huge problems during the last lockdown and still we were not able to contain the Covid-19 virus. There are many things one needs apart from medicines and groceries. The government cannot deny us these,” said Mehboob Sayed, a resident of Pydhonie in South Mumbai.
The state government’s decision to ensure 50 percent attendance in government offices and allow only companies with financial dealings to function in private officials witnessed a significant drop of commuters in trains and buses. “There was a noticeable dip in train passengers,” said a senior official of the central railways.
The bus conductors refused to take standees which resulted in many of the passengers not being taken inside.
Rahul Sharma, who travels from Shivaji Park to Byculla for work, said he could not take three buses as all seats were full. “I had to go to Mahim depot to get the bus. It was quite a comfortable travel as usually buses used to be fully packed,” said Sharma.
Many running financial institutions also did not come to work as they have been asked to ensure that their workers are fully vaccinated fully or else have a RT-PCR negative Covid-19 test result every 15 days. Nitin Nikalje, owner, Gati Investments which deals in stocks and insurance, said it was better to skip work. “How can I force my employees to take the test every 15 days? They will not agree to it,” said Nikalje.