As the spread of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) continues unabated in the state, especially in rural areas, district collectors in Maharashtra are increasingly relying on ‘janata curfews’ to break the chain of transmission. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had expressed his reservations about short and local lockdowns being observed in several states, and asked them to evaluate their usefulness as well as the adverse impact they have on economic activities.
Janata curfew calls by the administration are different from earlier orders of lockdowns as the former are “voluntary”, at least on paper. As local residents and traders are largely opposed to strict lockdowns that were being imposed and enforced by the administration, ‘voluntary’ janata curfews are proving to be a viable alternative.
Earlier this month, district collectors in Nagpur, Sangli, Kolhapur, Jalgaon, Raigad and Aurangabad had announced janata curfews of various durations – 10 days, five days and sometimes only on weekends.
Parbhani District Collector Deepak Muglikar has now announced a five-day janata curfew that will start from Saturday, in an attempt to break the chain of Covid-19 transmission. Parbhani, which is among the least affected districts in the state, has a caseload of about 5,000 with 700 active patients and 215 deaths. For the last few days, an average of 80 to 100 new cases have been reported in the district.
Muglikar gave a call to all traders, hawkers, artisans, small businesses, agricultural input shops, small and medium enterprises, transporters and government and semi-government employees to stay away from work and “make the curfew a 100 per cent success”. The appeal by the collector, however, did not elicit a very positive response from local residents as it will adversely affect trade and business activity, which is beginning to normalise after the lockdown that went on for months.
“In Pathri town, there have been few cases. The administration should observe curfew where there are cases. Such a blanket curfew is not desirable,” said a trader.
On Friday, Muglikar issued a clarification, saying the janata curfew was voluntary and not compulsory. “I have clarified that if people want to participate in the curfew they can remain indoors. If they want to work, they can come out and work,” Muglikar told The Indian Express.
Some district administrations, however, have taken a stance against short-term lockdowns and janata curfews, as they affect economic activities and their efficacy in slowing down the infection rate has not been proven.
In Yavatmal and Pune, the district collectors have made it clear that they are not calling for or supporting janata curfews. In Yavatmal, the local traders’ union had proposed a five-day janata curfew from September 15 to 19, but the district administration said that it will not support or officially provide any assistance to the call.
In Pune district, although janata curfews have been voluntarily observed in villages and towns such as Indapur and Baramati, Collector Rajesh Deshmukh has said that he is not in favour of a curfew in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad cities at this stage.
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