Updated: July 12, 2021 12:11:42 pm
Even as the Prime Minister has expressed his concern at the swelling crowds and the city doctors are warning of a possible third wave of coronavirus, the administration seems to have gone into a slumber with hardly any checks or challans to ensure masks and social distancing.
From Thursday to Saturday, The Indian Express visited all the busy markets, and malls that attract a sizeable crowd and could be potential transmission hubs but did not once encounter the 30 teams constituted by the SDMs or anyone from the police team cautioning or challaning the violators.
Be it shopkeepers or vendors or shoppers, there were plenty of people sans a mask. Nor had any shopkeeper taken the trouble of putting up a notice saying that everyone in the staff was vaccinated.
While 12 Covid teams have been constituted under the jurisidiction of SDM South, there are four under SDM Central and 14 under SDM East.
On June 25, UT Adviser Dharam Pal had ordered the administration to go aggressive on challaning those violating the COVID protocol. The teams did take action, but only on Day 1 and after that it was life as usual.
In the war room meeting held last Tuesday, UT Administrator V P Singh Badnore too had asked the police to get strict with violators.
But the UT Police that ensures helmets and seat belts is turning a blind eye to violators of COVID-19 protocols. Here are some of the spots The Indian Express visited:
Outside Elante mall
At 11.15 am Thursday, crowds start swelling outside the mall. The parking areas get packed as families head to one of the largest malls of the region. Inside the mall, though there is staff deployed to ask people to wear masks, many remove the masks once they step into the shops. There is absolutely no Covid protocol at eating joints and restaurants inside the mall and people sit closely cheek by jowl without masks, and chat.
Outside the mall, where people need to be made aware to keep wearing masks, there was no such checking in that peak time, when officials ought to be there. For two hours 29 minutes, there was no representative of administration seen as people removed their masks and violated distancing norms.
It’s only when you are driving back from Elante that you see a police team at the end of the road, stopping people for not following traffic rules. The traffic cop, incidentally, was also without a mask.
Sector 22 market
People elbow past each other to make their way to the small kiosks packed next to each other at the Shastri market in Sector 22. There is no place to even walk properly and the area is encroached with shopkeepers extending their wares to the corridor.
At 12.30 noon on Friday, the market is jam-packed with people. Most of them being women and students. There is no concept of social distancing here due to paucity of space in the corridor.
Visitors, shopkeepers, salesmen all either had masks on their chin or wore a handkerchief.
Many vendors hawking their wares out of their bags come too close for comfort as they try to entice you with their goods, and almost all have masks under their chins.
Even if you ask them to maintain distance, they follow you till you enter the shops.
Despite the fact that this market is known for drawing crowds, the Express did not see any team during the two hours it was here. The same market was checked on Saturday at 12 noon but the situation was the same with no masks and no checking.
Similar was the state of Sector 22 mobile market on the main road. The condition on Friday was worse than usual due to a ‘chhabeel’ (the distribution of sweetened water). Those distributing the water in scorching heat had no masks and gave glasses full of the sweetened water to commuters. The main road was choked as people crowded and waited for the water to be served.
Many working in the mobile markets were also without masks. Some shopkeepers who wore cloth masks had them hanging on their chin.
Shalini Bhatia, a resident of Sector 22, said there is no checking in the sector despite the large number of people who congregate here.
She said her sister who had gone out for a meal to Sector 26 without a mask was fined Rs 2,000 but not given any receipt.
“I have not seen any regular checking in many markets, including Sector 22. My sister paid ?2000 fine for not wearing a mask in Sector 26 last fortnight. She paid the fine via Google Pay and that number belonged to one Paan vala. Only the challan slip was served but she was not given any receipt by the challaning officers in uniform,” she said.
Sector 19 Palika Bazaar
None of the administration teams was present at Sector 19 Palika Bazaar at 11 am on Friday, another popular market in the city. It’s a crowded market with small kiosks and little place for moving around.
Most of the shopkeepers and customers were without masks though some shop owners had tied handkerchiefs over their nose.
“There is a casual approach by shop owners and enforcement authorities in most crowded markets, including Sector 19. The administration should take a cue from Delhi and start closing overcrowded market belts for 48 hours or so, as a fine, if people are found violating Covid norms,” said R K Garg, president, Second Innings Association.
Sector 19 Main Market
The main market in Sector 19 was equally crowded at 11.30 am on Friday. A bunch of men stood outside the Neelkamal Medical Store violating the COVID protocol.
But there was no one to check them.
The tea stall owners or the juice owners who can act as super spreaders were all without masks. A juice vendor who stood outside the Krishna Jewellers was without mask as he chatted with a group.
Even the auto drivers here were flouting the Covid protocol without any fear. Auto drivers too act as super spreaders as they ferry many people sitting in close quarters.
Sector 17 and 18 market
Known for its electrical shops, the Sector 18 market was agog with people at 11.55 am on Friday. Many government vehicles were also seen parked in the parking and people stood around without any fear or masks.
Here too, the admin team was conspicuous by its absence. On Saturday, Sector 17, known as the heartbeat of Chandigarh, was ticking away without many masks.
Many taxi drivers stood around, all of them without masks.
Except for a few customers heading to big shops, no one wore any masks.
Here too, there was no sign of the administration’s teams.
R C Sharma, vice-president, Sector 18 RWA, said, “Though shopkeepes are trying their best to enforce Covid protocols, it’s the shoppers who are overcrowding, particularly the Sector 18-D market. Authorities should conduct random inspection at all crowded markets of the city.”
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