Restrictions due to Covid-19 in major cities of the state have made revellers head to resorts or party plots on rural outskirts or surrounding districts to welcome the New Year even as police banned “celebratory” events violating social distancing norms in resorts and party plots.
Farmhouses, party plots, hotels and resorts in Panch-mahals, Kevadia in Narmada district (near the Statue of Unity), Sanand, Dholka, Ognaj and Viramgam in Ahmedabad rural, Kalol in Gandhinagar and areas in Surat district recorded full bookings for the New Year weekend.
However, celebrations will be muzzled with no mass gatherings, DJ or orchestra performances as police have warned of legal action against both the hosts and party goers if social distancing norms are violated.
Night curfew from 9 pm to 6 am is in place in Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Surat and Vadodara, while it will be relaxed by an hour and will begin at 10 pm from January 1. Police have banned entry to these cities after 9 pm on December 31. However, with no such restriction in the rural areas of these cities as well as other surrounding districts, party goers have found a new haven.
In Narmada, the Statue of Unity (SoU) management has increased the number of available tickets from 2,500 to 5,500 for the viewing gallery.
In Panchmahals, popular tourist destinations such as Jambughoda, which are home to several private resorts are seeing packed premises with individual bookings. A senior police officer of the district said that the drive to crack down on any New Year bash is ongoing but private bookings in hotels and resorts would not classify under violation of Covid-19 norms.
“If a small group of friends or a family has checked into a hotel or resort following Covid-19 guid-elines, it wouldn’t really be in violation. We are watching private parties closely and will crack down on any violation,” the officer said.
The Vadodara police has issued a public message to make people aware that no police permission has been granted to any organisers for New Year bash and, therefore, the onus is on the citizens to stay away from such events.
A senior officer of the city police said, “Whenever there is a violation of the prohibitory orders, revellers who have participated with full awareness blame the organisers to escape the law. Therefore, we have made it clear with the notification that the onus will be on the participants as much as on the organisers…”
In Ahmedabad rural, police have instructed owners of 8-9 resorts and over 150 farm houses to not hold any celebratory event on December 31 night.
Virendra Yadav, Superintendent of Police, Ahmedabad rural, said, “We will have strict bandobast in place with 24 check points in Ahmedabad rural where we will take action against those violating Covid norms… Farm houses and resort owners have been told to not organise any late night event… their actions will be monitored by police constantly… Action will be taken against both resort management and guests if instances of late night partying is found…”
A staff associated with Gulmohar Greens Resort on Sarkhej-Sanand Highway in Sanand of Ahmedabad rural, said, “At present, we have 30-35 rooms occupied with guests… We have told our guests that no late night celebration or partying will be allowed at our resort.”
Surat city and district police who are on vigil will use drone cameras to monitor activities inside farmhouses. There are over 150 farmhouses in the city and over 250 of them in the district.
Surat city police commissioner Ajay Kumar Tomar said, “We will ensure strict implementation of Covid- 19 guidelines and also the curfew in city areas. Farm houses and party plots are being screened by our personnel.”
Surat district Superintendent of Police Usha Rada said, “There are several farmhouses here and we have intimated local police to step up vigil… we are against liquor parties. On national highways, our teams will strictly check drink-and-drive cases.”
Meanwhile, police will be not use breathalysers to check if commuters are under the influence of alochol due to Covid-19 restrictions. As per senior police officers, patrolling and check post teamswere asked to monitor the speech and movement of the suspects and take blood samples for tests if need be.
Vadodara police, which has been using breathalysers in an ongoing drive against drunk driving, has attracted attention during the pandemic, especially since the state police has prohibited its use. Vadodara Commissioner of Police RB Brahmabhatt said that the department has discontinued the use of breathalysers from Thursday.
In Valsad, close to Union Territory of Daman and Silvassa where there is no prohibition on liquor sale, police have already started a drive against drink-driving. District Superintendent of police Dr Rajdeepsinh Zala said, “We have taken eight private halls on rent, and four tents have been made on open party plots to keep those arrested in the night in prohibition cases.”