Why is Agra not descending from the Covid-19 peak?
Doctors and social workers blame it on carelessness and unmindfulness of a large percentage of people.Updated: Jul 07, 2020 14:01 IST
‘Tero naash ho jaye corona, toone chhino Brijwasi se kachaudi aur jalebi ko dona’ (Let you be cursed corona for having snatched jalebi and kachaudi from Braj residents). Thus go the lyrics of a popular song in the Braj area in Mathura (in Agra division), which to a great extent indicate the careless attitude of the people of the region.
Agra and region may be reeling under the attack of the Covid-19 pandemic but all the locals care about is their breakfast of jalebi and kachaudi. Even in containment zones, compliance of disease-prevention norms is neglected.
In the unlock phase, the freedom to violate norms has become the order of the day in Agra city which has seen 88 deaths due to Covid-19 infection.
Despite sweetmeat shops being allowed to open in the unlock phase, the rider attached to them is that no one be allowed to eat at these shops. They have to get the eatables packed and carry it back home. Those violating the norms are facing action but many shops in suburban areas and in the inner lanes easily serve customers who wish to eat right there.
The logic food lovers gave for thronging the stalls of Agra’s famous chat and other delicacies is that freshly prepared eatables are hot and the heat kills the germs.
“The awareness level in the city is not at the level required in a city which has the leading number of Covid-19 cases. Shops are asked only to pack eatables and not allow anyone to eat at the shop but those purchasing the packed item, walk a few steps and open it to have it standing in a group,” said Agra physician N K Singh.
“Masks are a must when we interact but the reverse is seen. People have a mask on when they are alone but remove it once they are interacting with others. The whole purpose of a mask gets defeated. Social distancing, if considered, is simplest and the most effective weapon against Covid-19 spread but it is violated openly.
“It is well established that virus spreads through droplets yet masks are not worn by many. Masks stops the droplets spreading through sneezing, coughing and while speaking, and the simple solution is wearing a mask and social distancing but even our leaders are seen violating social distancing when getting photographs clicked,” the doctor added, and asked for a strict penalty to be imposed on those violation norms.
But it isn’t smooth sailing for these outlets selling the famous Braj breakfast of kachaudi and jalebi in Mathura and Aligarh, and bedain (another form of kachaudi) and jalebi in Agra.
The famous Oma Kachaudi Wale at Holi Gate area in Mathura had submitted a memorandum to officials in Mathura to have shops opened for kachaudi and jalebi and are prepared to follow all unlock rules, provided shops are allowed to open at ‘proper’ breakfast timings.
“We have met the city magistrate and are being assured that we will be allowed to open from 7 am which is perfect timing for having kachaudi. We are hopeful that those who relish the taste of our kachauris will return to savour their favourite breakfast,” said Oma Kachaudi Wale owner Triloki Nath Agarwal.
Dauji Mishthan Bhandar (Agra) owner Jay Agarwal counts timing of opening and closing of shops as the major issue hitting sales. “We are allowed to open shops from 10 am to 8 pm. The bedain and jalebi are prepared early in the morning. If we open at 10 am, the time for breakfast has already passed,” said Agarwal.
“The common man is not that inclined to take risks and this is reflected in our sales falling. We have three outlets in the city but we prepare breakfast only at Bhagwan Talkies and Nunhai. Our third outlet is in Kamla Nagar. The locality is a posh area where people are aware about safety precautions and prefer to give bedain and jalebi a miss for the sake of safety. Thus, we dropped the idea there,” Agarwal said.
Bhagat Halwai (MG Road, Agra) owner Shishir Bhagat said that customer footfall is gradually increasing. “In the first 15 days after lockdown, we recorded only 15% sale but it increased to 40% after a fortnight. We do not allow anybody to eat at our shop and follow all guidelines, including wearing of aprons, head covers, and follow sanitisation procedures,” Bhagat said. The sales percentages he quoted were in comparison to pre-lockdown sales figures.
“The fear of Covid-19 is fading steadily and now the administration should allow shops to close later, as the present timings of 10 am to 8 pm are not fit for summer. People usually like to move out of the house after 8 pm in summer. Further, permission should be granted to eat at shops with seating arrangements made being mindful of social distancing,” said Bhagat, who hopes for better business around Rakasha Bandhan, when shops sell ‘ghevar’ during the month of Sawan.
Lokswar (a socio-cultural organisation) convenor Rajeev Gupta said, “There is much Covid-19-related fear because of which the sensible are not going out to have their favourite bedain and jalebi. There is a section which seems to be careless and is happy consuming the breakfast right at the shop, but strict action should be taken against them.
“Largely, there is a lot of carelessness regarding social distancing and with markets open, violations are rampant. In Agra, Covid-19 has spread to rural areas too, but there too, masks are not a must for most villagers and such lapses are leading to the disease raging on,” Gupta said.
In the last two days of June, there were about 600 marriages in Agra, and at these functions, food lovers far outnumbered those sensible enough to refuse to eat.