Coronavirus Update: Lockdown forces Goa residents to scramble for food, medicines
Several residents across Goa, and particularly North Goa’s Pilerne, Porvorim and Socorro, complained that they were unable to buy supplies even after grocery shops re-opened on Friday during the ongoing lockdown.Updated: Mar 30, 2020 05:41 IST
Residents of Goa continue to face an acute shortage of supplies, including groceries like bread and milk, fresh vegetables as well as medicines,three days after chief minister Pramod Sawant said that shops selling essential items would remain open 24X7.
Speaking to the press on Sunday, Sawant said that the food shortage was on account of wholesale dealers and suppliers being afraid to move their goods on account of police action. “Hoarding is not the (reason). We are ensuring these hurdles are eased,” he said.
“All grocery stores should stay open as long as possible. The godowns which are closed will have to open else we will send civil supplies inspectors to their doorstep. Stock has run out because the suppliers were afraid to move their vehicles and supply. We have asked them to keep the food chain running,” Sawant said.
The CM also requested restaurants to keep their kitchens running so as to maintain the food supply chain.
Several residents across the state, and particularly North Goa’s Pilerne, Porvorim and Socorro, complained that they were unable to buy supplies even after grocery shops re-opened on Friday.
“People are scrambling for food wherever they can find and the administration is completely overwhelmed and cannot cope. Others are exchanging and sharing the last of the vegetables among themselves while trying to help each other out and set up their own networks,” Sapna Sahani, a resident of Alto-Pilerne area of Porvorim in North Goa, said.
“We are working with suppliers who complain that they are facing issues in other states and hence are not willing to risk bringing fresh stock into the state,” A Potekar, deputy collector of North Goa, said. He was unable to provide a timeline of when the issue would be resolved.
In South Goa too, local body representatives complained that the government had passed the buck onto them without the means to help out. “The government has asked to home deliver, but what will be delivered when there is no stock. Several grocery stores are willing to open but what will they sell when everything has run out,” Allwyn Jorge the sarpanch of the Carmona, a coastal village in South Goa, said.
On Saturday, the CM tweeted that online delivery of food via delivery services Swiggy and Zomato would be permitted, and that food buses providing meals to the needy had started running in the state.
Goa, which reported its first positive case 24 days after the first case of local transmission was reported in the country on March 2 — has been reeling under a supply shortage of essentials and a clampdown on movement, ever since the state observed the Janta Curfew on March 22, based on prime minister Narendra Modi’s televised appeal asking people to stay indoors voluntarily.
The state extended the curfew by three days. Following the announcement of a 21-day national lockdown on Tuesday, the CM insisted on a “100% lockdown and a 100% curfew” shutting down grocery shops, chemists and other such shops. The state also called Central Reserve Police Force personnel to ensure that people do not break lockdown in the state where on last count five persons have tested positive.
Sawant said that essentials would be supplied by the district to people’s doorsteps, and helpline numbers would be circulated among residents, but neither materialised.
“I got in touch with the local panch and the sarpanch, who they said would be responsible for the home delivery of groceries, but they have told me that they themselves have not received stock of supplies to be distributed among the people,” Sahni said.
“The problem is not only in Goa but from across the border in Karnataka where the supplies come in from. We cannot open our store because we have no stock of groceries and neither do we have staff who do not have the means to come to work. At least the buses should have been operational,” Prakash Pereira, owner of popular supermarket store Defino’s, said.
Last week, a resident approached the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court asking that the state make essentials available to the residents. “The complete closure grocery shops without any proper system to effect home deliveries or to account for people who have no means to even avail home deliveries might possibly make it extremely difficult for people to access essentials, which, as the term implies, are essential to life and essential to endure the unprecedented, but necessary lock-down. However, at the same time, any blanket relaxations might have the tendency to frustrate the very purpose of having a lock-down of such proportions,” the High Court observed.