Iewduh, Meghalaya’s largest traditional market in State capital Shillong, reopened partially on Friday after a long lockdown. But the condition that business would be allowed only if the traders are vaccinated drew flak from various quarters.
The East Khasi Hills district administration had on June 15 issued an order for the partial reopening of Iewduh from June 18 provided the shopkeepers and vendors have taken the COVID-19 vaccine.
The order also said 185 shops and an equal number of vendors would be allowed to open each day on a rotational basis.
Iewduh has more than 4,000 shops but the traditional chief of the area had provided a list of 1,222 shops to the district authorities for reopening.
Local NGOs and political parties protested the order, asserting that the government does not have the right to force people to take the vaccine under any pretext.
On June 17, the youth wing of the Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement, a regional political party, demanded revocation of the vaccination order asking the shops and establishments to indicate the vaccination status of their staff. It opposed another order directing the cab operators and bus drivers to get themselves vaccinated before resuming operations.
“Such orders amount to the violation of a person’s constitutional rights besides going against a Supreme Court observation on medical autonomy of a person,” youth wing president Thomas Passah said.
The Chief Executive Member of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council, Titosstarwell Chyne, also said vaccination should be voluntary and could not be forced on the people.
State Health Minister A.L. Hek defended the order. “This is more of an appeal meant for the protection of shopkeepers and customers,” he said.
Rajya Sabha member and State president of the National People’s Party, W.R. Kharlukhi, said epidemic or pandemic-related orders were issued and strategies adopted after inputs from health experts. “People and groups should stop opposing the vaccination orders and let the health experts do their job,” he said.
Local organisations have also flayed cash incentives for people to get vaccinated.