Delhiites refuse to lock down; govt, police resolve to be more strict

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Published on Mar 23, 2020 11:50 PM IST
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By Vatsala Shrangi and Baishali Adak, New Delhi

From people taking their vehicles out to children playing outside, the first day of the lockdown in the national Capital on Monday was a complete contrast to Sunday’s janta “curfew”.

Police and civil defence volunteers urged people through public address system to stay indoors in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.

“The lockdown has had little impact, as unlike in other countries which have been under lockdown, the public at large here is not ready to understand the reality of the contagious virus. The government has to enforce this in a stringent manner,” said B S Vohra, president, Federation of East Delhi residents’ welfare association (RWA).

On Sunday, the Delhi government had ordered the lockdown that entailed sealing the city’s borders for all except essential services till March 31. Public transport was restricted with only a quarter of the Delhi Transport Corporation buses plying and banning of trains, cabs, autorickshaws, e-rickshaws and cycle rickshaws. The Delhi Metro too shut operations till the end of the month. Markets and all other commercial establishments in the city were closed too, except for groceries, fuel stations, LPG services, hospitals, home delivery services and pharmacies. Religious institutions were shut too. In addition to these, police had imposed prohibitory orders under section 144 of the criminal procedure code (CrPC) in the city.

On Monday, many private vehicles plied despite people having just the previous day complied to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to remain in self-imposed curfew between 7am and 9pm.

In many neighbourhoods, resident welfare associations (RWAs) kept only one or two entries open while closed down all the other gates and thoroughfares to restrict the entry of outsiders. However, they said, many people still chose to venture out or let their domestic helps in.

The police, meanwhile, admitted that the execution of prohibitory order was not upto the mark and made plans to strengthen it. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday said they would be strict from Tuesday.

According to RWAs, police personnel have been holding meetings with the residents and reminding people of the lockdown.

“We have held several meetings with RWAs to issue advisories and circular to all houses to comply with the lockdown. Our teams are out announcing the threats of venturing out. We have been taking all measures to make people stay indoors,” said a senior police officer in the southwest district.

In south Delhi’s Defence Colony, however, residents said there was not much activity. “We have kept only three to four gates open throughout the day. The guards have been told to be on an alert and not allow any outside vendors to come in. There are number of eateries within the colony, but people are voluntarily not stepping out. We are yet to issue an advisory restricting entry of domestic helps,” said Major Ranjit Singh (Retd), president, Defence Colony RWA.

At many places, long queues were witnessed outside grocery and dairy outlets where shopkeepers were found to be selling items above the maximum retail price (MRP). Purshottam Kalra, 68, a resident of west Delhi’s Pashchim Vihar said, “I had gone out to get some groceries where the shopkeeper first told me that he had run out of stock. He later handed me over some items charging above the MRP. I had to buy it as there was no other option in the vicinity,” said Kalra.

Meanwhile, in some areas sanitation workers too did not come out to collect garbage. Sunita Sharma, 44, in north Delhi’s Ashok Vihar said that it had been two days since someone had arrived to collect her household waste. “I had to go out to dispose it, as it had started to stink. These are essential services, which the civic bodies must ensure that they remain available in these times,” said Sharma.

Municipal officials, however, said sanitation work was being carried out in spite of the difficult circumstances. “Some of our sanitation staff resides in the national capital region (NCR) areas and couldn’t reach their work stations in Delhi. Besides, we have asked our safai karmcharis and naala beldars (drain cleaners) over 55 years of age to stay at home, so our staff strength was impacted. However, we executed all our duties - picking up and transporting garbage, cleaning toilets, sweeping roads, etc. -- to the best of our abilities,” said Sandip Jacques, Additional Commissioner, North Delhi Municipal Corporation.

IGL shut CNG outlets

While fuel stations continued to function, the Indraprastha Gas Limited (IGL) shut two-thirds of its self-operated compressed natural gas (CNG) stations amid the lockdown on Monday. Of its 155 stations, 44 in Delhi, 5 in Ghaziabad, 3 in Noida, 2 in Greater Noida and 1 in Gurugram will remain open till March 31.

“In order to rationalise services and during the lockdown, we decided to keep open the outlets with a bigger capacity to meet the requirement of emergency vehicles and other essential services,” said a statement issued by the IGL on Monday.

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