While nearly all non-essential commodity shops in Pune city remained shut on Thursday — Day 1 of the curfew-like restrictions imposed across the state — many local residents were seen moving around freely despite the restrictions.
The administration has allowed all essential and emergency services to operate as usual. Manufacturing units are also allowed to operate while auto-rickshaw and cabs are allowed to ply for essential and emergency purposes. PMPML bus service will only operate for workers in emergency and essential services.
While the orders categorically state that local residents should avoid stepping out unless they have a valid reason to do so, quite a few people were seen out on Pune streets on Thursday. “Non-essential shops have cooperated by keeping their stores closed. However, the number of people on the streets was more than expected. We have not yet started taking action against those moving without valid reasons,” said a civic officer.
Dr Alsaba Shaikh, a naturopathic practitioner and a resident of Kondhwa, said many residents have been compliant about the restrictions. “The police made rounds on the roads and most of the non-essential shops have remained shut in the area. Members of the family only go out to buy necessary items, such as groceries and medicines. Even my consultations, if any, are conducted more on calls,” she said.
Aryan Khollam, a resident of Moshi Annex and Abraham George, a resident of Uttam Nagar, said people in and around their areas were seen out and about to purchase essential items. “The only problem in Uttam Nagar is that the number of shops is not enough to cater to the high population. Often, there is a possibility of crowding when people go out to buy essentials. Otherwise, people are hesitant to venture out as they are scared about the rise in cases…,” said George.
Radhika Ekbote and Elspeth Chen, residents of Baner who are animal caregivers, said when they make their rounds to feed stray dogs in their area, they often find people loitering beyond the curfew timings. “It is mostly those between the age group of 20 and 30, in groups of four and five… Some of them do not even wear masks and they seem to be just strolling around post dinner…,” said Ekbote.
They said even on Thursday morning, local residents, many of them without masks, were out on their morning walk. “I go out to feed my dogs at around 5.30 am and I come across several people walking and jogging at Balewadi High Street. Even today, I saw 15 of the regular familiar faces I come across on my route. Several of them are senior citizens and while they maintain social distancing, they often have their masks dangling near their chin,” said Chen.
Chen also said that as a responsible community member, she often points it out to the defaulters. “Loose masks, broken straps or improper wearing of the mask is something that has become a common sight as people seem to believe that the virus is milder this time around and even if they get infected, they will recover. All I can ask them is… why get infected in the first place,” she said.
Rajshree Suresh, a resident of Shankar Seth Road, said that while only essential workers and people who are going to get their vaccinations are allowed to go out, people have been out for walks post the evening curfew timings.
She also pointed out that as schools are shut and exams cancelled or postponed, children are out playing. “Some children are not wearing masks… they do not understand the gravity of the situation. Even if one child gets infected in the play group, the virus can be transmitted to other families as well,” she said.
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