7-hr curfew relaxation spells doom as Ludhiana residents throng roads, markets
The district administration’s decision to impose a 17-hour curfew to control the infection spread proved to be an exercise in futility as residents thronged the city roads and markets during the seven-hour relaxation window between 5am and 12pm. Maddening crowds were witnessed in stores, especially those selling groceries, around 11am – one hour before the curfew was to kick in.
The situation went out of control at noon, prompting panic-stricken shopkeepers to bring their shutters down to prevent more people from entering the shops. Some even closed their stores as early as 11.30.
Massive traffic jams were witnessed across the congested roads of Chaura Bazar, Kesar Gunj Mandi, Saban Bazar, Kitab Bazaar, Ghumar Mandi, Field Ganj and Jawahar Nagar camp market. At Chaura Bazar and Nanu Halwai Chowk, commuters could be seen yelling at each other to clear the passage.
The infuriated traders who were busy loading and unloading the goods in their vehicles complained that if the stress of Covid-19 was not enough, the awkward timing of curfew relaxation only added to their miseries.
While commuters continued to remain stranded in the jam, there were no cops to streamline the traffic flow.
Panic buying was witnessed at grocery shops with buyers scrambling for trolleys and essentials, and then standing in queues to pay the bill.
“Is this how Covid can be curbed? I am scared of coming out now as the virus will spread fast in such a closed environment with so many people,” said Ankita, a college student. At one time, more than 50 buyers were present in a closed environment in a grocery-cum-departmental store in BRS Nagar.
“On one hand gatherings are banned and on the other, shops are witnessing huge crowds due to the narrow relaxation window,” said Naresh, a trader.
While grocery store owners made saw good sales, those dealing with cloth, utensils and kitchen appliances complained of low footfall.
Representations of the various market associations also expressed their reservations over the move.
“It is an absolutely bizarre decision to let everything open in the morning. The timing of curfew has done more harm than good. Though the markets began to open by 7am, the customers started to arrive at 10am. By 11am, there was utter chaos and shopkeepers began closing their shops. If in other districts shopkeepers have been allowed to open their establishments from 8am to 2pm, why can’t the same be implemented here. There were almost negligible sales at garment shops due to the odd timings,” said Sanjeev Choudhary, the owner of a garment shop and president of the Chaura Bazar Market Association.
In Ghumar Mandi market, which is famous for garments, jewellery and utensils stores, the shops were decked up but there were hardly any customers.
Pawan Kumar Batra, president of Ghumar Mandi market shopkeepers, requested the authorities to allow shops to be opened on alternate days. Darshan Kumar Sharma, a mechanic, also demanded a change in timing. “This relaxation will not work. It is absolutely ruining our business. Customers began arriving at 9am and no one came after 11am. And those getting their vehicles fixed also started panicking when the curfew timing was nearing,” said Sharma.