Janta Curfew: Pune turns into ghost town in its fight against Covid-19; gears up for prolonged lockdown
The Pune-Mumbai Expressway, which otherwise sees a heavy influx of traffic on weekends; the Pune railway station which has been swamped with passengers over the past few days and most other entry and exit points across the city were empty with little to no footfallUpdated: Mar 23, 2020 16:31 IST
On Sunday, Pune painted the perfect picture of a ghost town- deserted streets, empty buses, shutters down and not a single resident stepped out of their homes. This way, Puneites responded overwhelmingly to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposal of Janta Curfew on Saturday with most important streets and arterial roads in the city deserted. The Janta Curfew is voluntary and was in place for 14 hours, starting 7am on Sunday.
However, the city is now preparing for a prolonged lockdown after the state government invoked Section 144 of the Crimnal Procedure Code (CrPC) across the Maharashtra on Sunday afternoon. Section 144 of the CrPC pertains to prohibition of gathering of more than five persons at public places.
While essential services such as vegetables, fruits, milk, grocery, fuel stations and banking services will be open, most other sectors will be closed, according to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray. While Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad along with Mumbai and Nagpur are already under partial lockdown, the latest order prevents assembly of more than five persons along with shutting down of public transport in the city.
The Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML) services will also downscale its operations in the city from March 23 to 31. During this period, all the pass centres, night bus schedules, buses running outside the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) will close down. All depots will have 4 to 5 buses deployed at their depots which will not ply according a schedule. Buses will operate on a certain route only when there are a minimum of 8-10 passengers.
There will be 100 to 150 buses on routes across Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad. Wardens on BRTS will not work, only security guards will be deployed.
“The common public is not supposed to use the bus service, it is only for emergency service workers like police, civic body staffers, fire brigade officials, MSEB workers, cleaning staff, water supply department workers and all other emergency staff. Entry will be given only after checking their identity cards,” said PMPML traffic manager Anant Waghmare.
DCP (Special Branch Mitesh Ghatte said that voluntary curfew has been being observed by residents in totality and police were closely monitoring the situation. “However, since Section 144 has been imposed by the state , the citizens must not step out and stay indoors from Monday. The police will file cases for violations,” he said.
Pune petrol pump dealers’ association spokesperson Ali Daruwala, said, “Petrol pumps which want to operate are free to do so. This is a testing time for ever one and we will not hold common people hostage for want of petrol and diesel.”
Meanwhile, the Janta curfew showed the resilience of Punekars. The Pune-Mumbai Expressway, which otherwise sees a heavy influx of traffic on weekends; the Pune railway station which has been swamped with passengers over the past few days and most other entry and exit points across the city were empty with little to no footfall. However, essential services such as medical shops, groceries and milk distribution were running smoothly throughout the day..
Residents too, preferred to stay indoors as a part of the curfew while a large number of policemen were present at strategic exits and entries of the city such as Katraj square, Nigdi, Wagholi and Chandani chowk.
PM Modi had proposed the public curfew for March 22 between 7am and 9 pm as a part of social distancing to check the spread of Covid-19 infection. All businesses and transportation services suspended their operations in the city responding to the call.
The Pune Railway Station saw fewer passengers while the public hotspots like Swargate and Wakad bus stands were empty.