Coronavirus: Hundreds booked for breach as India toughens lockdown
On the first day of lockdowns imposed across the country to check the spread of coronavirus, hundreds of people were booked for violating the norms and issued warnings of arrest with jail terms up to a year if the violations continued. The number of states and Union territories that imposed the lockdowns increased to 28 on Monday with Punjab and Maharashtra, the worst-hit state with 71 confirmed Indian cases, imposing curfews.
In states like Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh, police circulated pictures of violators on social media with messages such as they were “against the society as they will not stay at home.” Police confiscated vehicles people found violating the norms in states including Haryana and Rajasthan.
Barricades were put up across places under lockdown as police checked whether people out of their homes had genuine reasons to do so. People in most states were allowed to visit markets to buy essential goods even as most streets wore a deserted look.
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Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh and his Rajasthan counterpart, Ashok Gehlot, warned of strict action if people did not follow the government orders on the clampdown.
In Punjab, there was confusion at several places as police stopped even commercial vehicles carrying essentials. Officials said the vehicles were stopped only in cases where they did not have permissions to ply in the state.
In Punjab’s Khanna, police forced the violators to do sit-ups as punishments for coming out of their homes. Police also clicked pictures of violators.
Public address systems were used across Punjab to ask people to remain indoors and warned of action if there were any violations. Officials faced a difficult time explaining that a curfew had been imposed across the state.
Ludhiana Goods Transport Association President Didar Singh said the curfew was imposed without any prior notice giving truckers no time to reach their final destinations.
In Maharashtra, the Mumbai police lodged 31 cases against violators even as a large number of people were asked to return to their homes. In Kalyan’s Dombivli area, police made a group of youngsters do sit-ins for coming out on bikes in violation of the lockdown. Pranaya Ashok, the Mumbai police spokesman, said awareness among people was low and they faced difficulty in enforcing the lockdown. “We have repeatedly asked people through public announcements to stay at home and not to gather on the streets,” he said.
Many tweeted to the Mumbai police pictures of people coming out in violation of the curfew imposed on Monday.
Police used public address systems to ask people not to come out or assemble at religious places even as most of the roads were deserted in Mumbai.
In Uttar Pradesh, over 200 cases were lodged against around 1,000 people for violating protocols across the 16 districts, where complete lockdowns was announced on Sunday.
Varsha Singh, a Lucknow resident, said she was stopped at several places when she went out to buy goods for the Navratri festival. “Potatoes was being sold for ₹40 a kg, which was earlier available for ₹30. Tomatoes were for ₹50 per kg...,” she said.
In Prayagraj, the district administration put up notices outside the homes of people, who have returned from foreign trips as a precautionary measure. There were reports of a shortage of milk and medicines from some localities. Gorakhpur’s divisional commissioner, Jayant Narlikar, and additional director general of police, Dawa Sherpa, had to request people to go back home as people defied lockdown.
In Bihar, hundreds of passengers, including migrant labourers, were stranded at several railway stations including Gaya, Muzaffarpur, Nawada, and Katihar, as local trains and transport services were suspended.
Passengers could be seen arguing with railway staff, seeking accommodation as there was no transport available. “We did not have lunch today. We do n’t have money,” said Rahul Rai, a passenger stranded at Gaya.
The Railway Board on Monday announced relaxation in the time limit prescribed for passengers to stay in retiring rooms. “All station masters will be conveyed this instruction quickly for the benefit of stranded passengers,” said an official.
In Rajasthan, four people were arrested in Jaipur for defying the state-wide clampdown and 111 vehicles were seized for violation of lockdown norms, which will be in force till March 31. Additional police commissioner (law and order) Ajay Pal Lamba said the four were arrested for disturbing peace. “They were roaming in the city without any reason and refused to go back home,” he said.