The first thing that thousands of people in Telangana have to do when the lockdown is lifted is to rush to local courts. One month since the lockdown began on March 24, Telangana Police has seized over 1.30 lakh vehicles of those who violated the lockdown rules across the 31 districts.
On April 22 alone, Hyderabad Traffic Police seized 2,466 vehicles and registered 14,329 cases under Motor Vehicle Act and disobedience of lockdown orders. Cyberabad Traffic Police issued 1.22 lakh e-challans on motorists violating lockdown norms and also breaking traffic laws.
The police claim that they are seizing vehicles of people who have no valid reason to be on the roads, violating the restrictions. In some cases, the vehicles were used to carry liquor or gutkha. “Some people are just not taking the lockdown rules seriously. They are roaming on the roads without any proper reason. Some claim that they are going to hospital but cannot explain what the emergency was. To make them understand the seriousness of the coronavirus situation and why the lockdown and the need for them to stay indoors is important, we are seizing the vehicles,’’ a top official said. “About 90 per cent are two-wheelers, the rest are four wheelers and autorickshaws,” he said. As of April 20, cops had seized 1,11,600 two-wheelers, 4881 autorickshaws, 3390 cars, and 579 other vehicles.
Telangana Director General of Police (DGP) M Mahender Reddy said that all the vehicles would be deposited with the local courts in each district after the lockdown is lifted. “People are thinking that they will just get back their vehicles once the lockdown is lifted and that is why they are taking liberties with the rules. It is not so easy. They have to attend court and get back their vehicles and there is a process involved in it,” he said, adding that in spite of appeals everyday, people were still violating the lockdown norms. The DGP said that as there are several containment zones in the city where corona virus have been reported from, police is implementing the lockdown very strictly.
“No one is allowed in or out of the containment zone and anyone violating this will face strict action. We have increased surveillance in the containment zones as well as around them,” an official said. An advocate and civil rights activist said that it may take up to one week to 15 days for the vehicles to be released by courts considering the huge numbers.
Over 70,000 of 1.30 lakh vehicles were seized in Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) area. Although Telangana Government extended the lockdown till May 7, on April 14 thousands of people came out on the roads in Hyderabad resulting in police seizing hundreds of vehicles.
“We have been appealing to people that if they have minor health problems they should go the nearest hospital rather than take a long ride elsewhere. If they have pre-existing medical conditions that require consultation at super speciality hospitals then they must carry the relevant documents. If you do not show a valid reason, we will seize your vehicle,” an official said. Motorists have also been asked to carry proof of residence and vehicle ownership papers for verification. DGP Reddy said that lockdown violations were more in urban areas than in rural areas. As per the lockdown rules, people can purchase essentials and groceries within a 3-km radius from their residence. However, a majority of the violators were found outside the 3-km radius zone and were not carrying proper identification and address proof papers.
Considering the large number of vehicles that have been seized especially in Hyderabad, and the court process involved in getting back the vehicles, Hyderabad MP and AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi demanded that police release the vehicles on a personal bond of the owners. “In Kerala, the high court has ordered that police release all vehicles on personal bond of owners. Telangana Police should also come out with such a policy,” he said. Owaisi said that people would require their vehicles as soon as the lockdown is lifted.