There was confusion and chaos on Mumbai’s arterial roads on Monday, as the police deployed 137 nakabandi points across the city to implement its new rule allowing only office-goers and those facing medical emergency to travel beyond a 2-km radius from their homes in their vehicles. By late evening, however, the “2-km barrier” rule had made way to “neighbourhood area limits”.
According to the government order issued on Monday, the 2-km restriction has been changed to “restricting people into their neighbourhood area limits”.
A senior police officer said that hardly any offences were made out against those violating the 2-km rule “as it would be difficult to trace the distance in each case”. The officer added that the focus was more on those violating lockdown restrictions in place, like people riding pillion on bikes or four-wheelers carrying more than three persons.
Mumbai’s arterial roads saw serpentine queues of vehicles at Sion, Andheri, Malad, Chembur as the police went on a drive to check vehicles. At the 137 nakabandi points, police personnel were seen mainly seizing bikes that had pillion riders and vehicles carrying more than three persons — in violation of rules that have been in place since the lockdown was first imposed.
At the nakabandi at Andheri junction on S V Road, a policeman said that implementing the 2-km rule is difficult as “people lie all the time” and besides checking ID proofs, it is difficult to determine if a person stays within a 2-km radius of the area where he has been caught. “ If I start sending officers to verify people’s addresses, no one will be left on bandobast duty,” the officer added.
“Instead of the 2-km rule, we are focussing more on those riding pillion on two-wheelers and cars ferrying more than three persons. We are seizing their vehicles and asking them to collect it in the evening or the next day,” he said.
With eight seized bikes parked next to the policeman on SV Road, the officer said: “Nearly 75 per cent of the vehicles seized are two-wheelers that had pillion riders. At some spots, police allowed families on a bike to go, however, young boys seen riding pillion were viewed with suspicion with their bikes seized in most cases… We are keeping an eye out for anyone who seems to be driving around with no valid reason.”
Some residents took to Twitter to understand the 2-km rule. One asked the police if he could travel to his child’s school even if the school was outside the 2-km radius. Many criticised the rule stating it was only causing chaos and delays at nakabandis.
Another resident tweeted that he took his father to a pathology laboratory for a blood test and his vehicle was impounded at Aarey. “How will people who don’t have a car manage?” he asked. Many others complained that while their vehicles were impounded, what rule they had violated was not explained to them.
Parth Dand (19), a resident of Andheri (East), who along with his friend was on his way to his bank in Andheri (west), had his bike seized. “Initially during the lockdown, they had said pillion riding was not allowed, but the rule was not really implemented. Today, they took my license and bike keys. They have asked me to come in the evening to collect my bike. I will be walking back home now.”
The vehicles were seized under Section 207 of the Motor Vehicles Act that pertains to the power of detaining vehicles used without certificate of registration permit, etc.
On Monday, while Mumbai Police seized 7,680 vehicles, the traffic police impounded 8,611 vehicles. With as many vehicles seized, the police faced a new problem — where to keep them. “We zeroed in on some grounds in our jurisdiction where the bikes were taken,” said a senior officer from the northern suburbs.
Meanwhile, residents shared videos of traffic snarls, especially at entry and exit points of the city, like Dahisar naka, on social media. The officer from the northern suburbs said, “We were allowing only those people into the city who either had proof of medical emergencies or were office-goers who could produce their employee ID. Hence, there were long traffic snarls at Dahisar naka of people trying to enter the city. To reduce the snarl, we went from checking all vehicles to a few.”
Mumbai Police spokesperson Pranay Ashok said, “ The 2-km rule was decided in concurrence with local civic authority and the government. The way it is to be implemented is decided by the local police present at the spot.”
“…People will realise they will not be allowed to move around without a valid reason. Even the number of vehicles seized today has reduced from Sunday. These issues will be resolved in the next few days,” he added.
DCP (Traffic) Sandeep Bhajibhakre said that congestion in large parts of the suburbs and on the Western Express Highway was due to multiple nakabandis in place.
—With inputs from Sadaf Modak and Srinath Rao
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