A day after Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant announced the government will keep grocery shops open during the lockdown, opposition leaders and the common public pointed out to the lack of a unified command in dealing with the shortage in food supply, with various ruling MLAs looking to deliver grocery and essentials only through their voter base.
“We are promoting home delivery through 2500 volunteers who will reach you,” the chief minister has assured the state.
According to the state’s Covid-19 response framework, only those who have volunteer passes will be accepted to transit across the roads. But at several places shops continued to remain shut, with the grocery owners either having not got their supplies with the borders still difficult to cross for the trucks, or some taking a decision to stay indoors themselves. Till Saturday evening, there was chaos in distribution of volunteer cards too.
“The only volunteer passes have gone to pachas and the names suggested by MLAs. There are 700 volunteers whose letters and applications are still not accepted and its been four days. Today is Saturday and we still do not have a response,” said Rama Kankonkar who had been receiving emergency calls since morning from high risk patients and senior citizens.
“Ideally this should have been a joint effort using government officials and volunteers together. Young block level officers could have been utilised who could have directed and managed the efforts of so many willing volunteers put in. We would have done the running around based on the requirements. Last night In my constituency a politician’s fish truck went around supplying fish while people were frantically calling for essentials. This is not the time for politics. Supplying fish in random locations with no proper food channel doesn’t make sense.”
On Friday, many forwards started the rounds with few ruling MLAs promising ration on numbers provided. Calls to the numbers didn’t yield any response, with many posting their angst on social media. Throughout the day, the infighting between pachas and ward members played through Goa with many places facing problems in coordination in the distribution network.
“We were told problems will stabilise and a solution is in place. The biggest problem is decisions are changing even before they are implemented. The supply chain is already disrupted, nobody knows what happened to the stocks or where they are. Ministers are only looking into concerns of their constituencies and voters. This needs a response for whole of Goa. They need to act and work together. This has to be a continuous process,” said Elvis Golmes as he explained the issue of pachas and MLA representatives taking initiative.
What was initially seen as teething problems only became worse. In Panjim, Corporation of The City of Panjim initially invited volunteers for their service. An office used for administrative work soon turned into a make-shift godown on Thursday with inexperienced officials measuring cereals and rice into packets for the delivery service.
According to a Panjim resident who went to volunteer,“ they started with a genuine intention to help but were soon overwhelmed with the calls. It was all badly managed so we withdrew and left,” he said.
On Saturday, former BJP MLA Sidharth further got social media talking when he tweeted of “clandestine divertion of rations from government store to private stores and selling to public at exorbitant rates,” as he asked Chief Minister Pramod Sawant to “investigate and punish people who are cheating Panaji and making money in these times of crises.”
By evening pictures of the first batch of volunteer driven dispersal of groceries was finally made public through Department of Information and Publicity. “Government of Goa has commenced home deliveries of essential items. And efforts are being made to cover the entire state. So citizens do not have to step out of their homes,” read a statement.
In towns, Goans continued to wait for the stock, as they started placing orders and creating supply through public initiatives, like neighbourhood networks. In villages much against the Chief Minister’s Instructions some continued to crowd with disregard to social distancing.
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