Updated: March 25, 2020 11:31:59 am
NOTWITHSTANDING Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal for calm and that there were adequate supplies of essential items, his call for a 21-day lockdown triggered panic buying across states.
In Mumbai, soon after his speech ended, residents rushed out in droves to grocers and vegetable vendors to stock up on foodgrains, snacks, milk, eggs, bread and cleaning material. Policemen used batons to enforce the ban on gatherings. “I had to return home empty-handed because some policemen were beating people ahead of us,” said Pooja Gala, a working professional who went with her father to a grocery store near the Bhayander police station. In Juhu, a vegetable cart was chased by people, in turn with police in hot pursuit.
A policewoman in Lokhandwala Township, Kandivali, said crowds grew even before the PM’s speech ended. “They just ran down as soon as the PM said lockdown,” she said.
In Kolkata, New Alipore Market saw people coming in cars to lift sack-full of items. Shops selling chicken were forced open by panic-stricken customers. “We want to buy as many things as possible as I have too many mouths to feed at home,” said a man in his 40s, shopping with his wife and driver. Soon, Kolkata Municipal Corporation officials arrived to close the shops, and when that did not work, switched off the power supply to the market.
Lucknow markets saw huge crowds huddle around shops selling medicines, groceries, milk and vegetables. Looking for milk for his children at a grocery shop in Nishatganj market, Ashish Singh (31) said, “I don’t know if there will be arrangements for milk and other essentials… I have been to four shops, but none have milk.”
Long queues were seen at ATM machines too. The owner of a grocery store in Nishatganj said, “If the PM had to make an announcement like this, he should have either informed us in advance or should have given detailed instruction on how essential commodities will be made available…”
Additional Chief Secretary Awanish Awasthi said arrangements would be made for the supply of essential commodities to everyone at home. “A large number of vehicles will be employed.”
Ahmedabad too saw crowds at vegetable and grocery stores as well as Amul dairy parlours and petrol pumps. An owner of a small provision store on the Vasna Bhayali Road in Vadodara said they feared for their safety. “The rush is unbelievable. If we do not get supplies by tomorrow, we might have to shut down,” he said.
CM Vijay Rupani went on social media to assure that no supplies would run out.
Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot welcomed the initiative by the PM while asking collectors to ensure that the poor were taken care of. But, he too had to appeal for calm over panic buying. “No prohibition on opening of shops selling essential commodities and no time limit has been fixed for these,” he said. “Consumer stores should use mobile van for home delivery of necessary items.”
Assam saw panic buying of essential items throughout Tuesday. Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said “difficult times” called for “difficult measures”. In other states of the Northeast, officials said people had already prepared for the immediate next few days.
In a series of tweets, Modi said, “My fellow citizens, there is absolutely no need to panic… Essential commodities, medicines etc would be available. The Centre and various state governments will work in close coordination to ensure this.”
Home Minister Amit Shah also assured that there will be no crisis of essential commodities.
Here’s a quick Coronavirus guide from Express Explained to keep you updated: Are smokers at high risk form coronavirus? | Can Vitamin-C prevent or cure coronavirus infection? | What exactly is community spread of coronavirus? | How long can the Covid-19 virus survive on a surface? | Amid the lockdown, what is allowed, what is prohibited?
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines