Goans unprepared as 21-day lockdown begins

Racing against time: Gaons make last-minute purchases at Panaji Municipal Market on Tuesday.

Racing against time: Gaons make last-minute purchases at Panaji Municipal Market on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: Atish Pomburfekar

Mechanism will be finalised to ensure supply of milk and groceries to people, says CM Pramod Sawant

The 21-day all-India lockdown came as a shocker to many in Goa as citizens of the coastal State have not stocked up on essential groceries and vegetables since the Janata Curfew announced by the Prime Minister was expected to be lifted on Wednesday.

The Opposition parties and locals pointed out that the State government had casually extended the Janata Curfew from one day on March 22 to three days. On Tuesday, it was extended to March 31 by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, who said a necessary system to ensure the supply of essential services will be in place in the next three days.

All major municipal markets in the capital city, Panaji, and the towns of Mapusa, Margao, Vasco and Ponda, which were shut down since Sunday, were allowed to remain open from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. After holding an all-party meeting, Dr. Sawant said Goa has had no positive cases of the coronavirus and the government wants to keep it that way. While the fish markets were officially shut, some vendors sold kingfish and mackerel for a premium at ₹800 and ₹400 a kg, way above the usual prices.

“After taking suggestions from all political parties, we have decided that it is time to take some hard steps. Goa will have a 100% curfew. No shops, including milk, fish, vegetables vendors, will be open. Only government emergency services will be available,” Dr. Sawant said. Admitting that people of the State will face issues, the Chief Minister said the steps were taken for the protection of people’s health.

As many people had been unable to stock household essentials, Dr. Sawant informed that given that it was a lockdown with social distancing and arresting community spread being the aim, district collectors and mamlatdars would be meeting to finalise a mechanism to ensure the supply of milk and groceries to the people of Goa. “A system will be worked out over the next two to three days,” he said.

Last week, the Goa government had sealed its inter-State borders to passenger and tourist traffic as well as imposed Section 144 of the CrPC to prevent mass gatherings. “Tourists should not come to Goa before March 31. Beaches, restaurants and many public places will remain closed in the wake of COVID-19,” Dr. Sawant said.

Leader of the Opposition and Margao Congress MLA Digambar Kamat said the all-party meeting demanded the government to ensure the supply of basic commodities and make sure that no one goes hungry. “I have urged the Chief Minister to address the State as contradictory statements have emerged, creating confusion in the minds of people,” Mr. Kamat said.

Goa Forward Party president Vijai Sardesai, who was part of the all-party meeting, said the announcement of a lockdown should have been accompanied by clarity on how people will be provided with groceries. “I told the Chief Minister it is ethically wrong to make the announcement to Goans after 11 a.m. when the markets were shut,” Mr. Sardesai said.

Many residents took to social media. “I am in Goa. They told us we would have a one day lockdown on Sunday then extended it to March 25, then to March 31, now finally the whole country for 21 days. They said do not panic and buy. What does my family and pets eat for the next few weeks? We cannot make our food last so long,” a local posted on social media.

Another Karnataka native employed with a hotel in Goa appealed to Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa to ensure that people from Huballi, Belagavi and Karwar are allowed to head back to their native villages.

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 6:40:19 PM |

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