No milk, bread, or medicines: Goa reels under CM Sawant’s 100% lockdown stance
Left without food and daily needs amid a 100% lockdown, a Goa resident has approached the Bombay High Court at Goa and the court agreed to hear the matter on priority.
Anger is simmering in Goa, India’s smallest state, whose chief minister is keen to ensure a 100% lockdown including cracking down on the supply of daily essentials like milk and bread as the lockdown has begun to affect not just stranded tourists and homeless but even middle class households.
With Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s grand plan for home delivery proving to be a non-starter, the opposition has approached the Governor’s office seeking his intervention. A group of residents has approached the High Court while still others are baying for the Chief Minister to resign.
A flustered Goa administration has assured the Bombay High Court at Goa that it will put in place “some plan of action” by Thursday evening to supply essentials like groceries, etc. to the people.
Goa has been under a virtual lockdown since Sunday when the Prime Minister announced a 14-hour Janta Curfew. Before the curfew ended, Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant announced that the curfew would be extended by another three days in Goa.
On Tuesday, the Goa Chief Minister announced that he was tightening measures and announced “a 100% lockdown and a 100% curfew” which would cover all establishments including grocery stores and milk booths as well as pharmacies with the only exception being government vehicles belonging to essential departments like the police, health department, fire, emergency services and power and water supply.
Markets have been closed and hapless residents have been left without milk and bread for two consecutive days with households fast running out of food and police forcibly closing those shops that open and booking the owners.
Sawant’s enthusiasm for the lockdown is puzzling especially since until five days ago, he was insisting that local body elections that were initially scheduled for March 22, but later postponed by a mere two days after the Prime Minister announced a Janta Curfew for Sunday, would go ahead.
Sawant said he didn’t realise the severity of the pandemic until a conference call with the Prime Minister.
“We did not gauge the severity of this earlier. On the 21st that is after the video conference with Modiji on the 20th, then [we] began to realise the severity of it,” Sawant told a press briefing on Monday.
Goa was ‘late to the party’ in terms of registering cases of coronavirus with the first three cases being confirmed positive on Wednesday night.
“I understand that there will be trouble, I am aware of this. I am also attentive to the fact that people are not getting things on time. We will take about two days to put systems in place. People have begun to experience difficulties in getting their daily necessities. I request those fair price shops to request permission from the deputy collector for home delivery of essential goods. The shops should be closed but home delivery can begin. The customers should call the stall owners and book their orders,” Sawant had said on Wednesday.
The chief minister also announced a helpline for food to help those going hungry to call the authorities and inform them about their plight and volunteers would deliver food. A similar number was launched for medicines.
However, even by the end of the second day, no workable system was in place. As an example, for the ‘home delivery of milk’ only three phone numbers of distributors were provided for the capital city Panaji that were expected to cover a population of 1.5 lakh people.
Left without food and daily needs a resident has approached the Bombay High Court at Goa and the court agreed to hear the matter on priority.
“I am compelled to move the high court on account of the scarcity of essential commodities and lack of organization to provide basic food supply… the Prime Minister solemnly assured the nation that essential commodities and groceries would be made available to all. The people of Goa are struggling to find even basic food to sustain themselves in the days of the curfew,” Advocate Rohit Bras de Sa who has approached the High Court said.
The advocate general told the High Court that “all steps are being taken and will be taken to ensure that there is supply of essentials to the people.”
The matter has been posted for Friday. Understandably, residents are furious.
“The CM should handover charge to a competent person until the crisis is over or before the people spill out on the roads for want of essentials... Already the food supply chain is disrupted,” Jesuin Fernandes said.
“Municipalities and panchayats have struggled with managing garbage and cleanliness for years. Now, the Goa CM wants them to take up added responsibilities of handling food delivery systems when they have absolutely no experience in doing so. Why can’t they just do what other states are doing? Goa, being geographically small and with a lesser population, should have been far easier to manage. Why is the Goa Government so hell bent on making things difficult for itself, and for the people?” Sandeep Heble, a resident of Panaji, said.
“I have not gone out of my house for the last five days since Saturday supporting the home quarantine drive. I have seen and heard on prudent media CM’s speech informing people not to panic and that all of us would be supplied essential commodities and that pharmacies will remain open. Today’s situation at my home is that we are in urgent need of grocery items and also in need of some medicines for my small children. I tried calling all possible numbers for home delivery, the numbers which were in circulation just a few days back only to be found either “number doesn’t exist” or “can’t get through” or Whatsapp messages not seen/not replied,” José Pereira another resident said.
The opposition has now approached the Goa Governor seeking his intervention.
“I have requested the Hon’ble Governor of Goa for his intervention on the issue of supply & availability of essential commodities. I am confident his intervention will bring relief to the people of Goa,” Leader of Opposition Digambar Kamat tweeted.