GUWAHATI, March 27 - All it took was an announcement by the State government last evening to relax the norms for market places to plunge those into utter chaos this morning. Bazaars and market places across the State witnessed crowds who jostled for space to get their hands on their items of choice, including vegetables and fish and meat.
The absence of any effort by the government officials and police to discipline the crowds and enforce social distancing resulted in a complete mockery of the lockdown � undoing all the good achieved by the shutdown for the past several days.
Seven designated places were fixed by the government for sale of vegetables in the city but most markets in the city started functioning in usual manner since morning.
The government reacted later in the afternoon by instructing that all markets, except grocery and pharmacy, would remain closed until further order.
An official directive stated that grocery shops would also provide vegetables, fruits, eggs, gingers, garlic, water, etc., and that the Deputy Commissioners would organise distribution of vegetable through mobile vans in all areas on alternate days besides fixing appropriate time of opening of grocery shops as per local convenience.
�All meat and fish shops will remain closed till March 31. It will be reviewed on April 1, 2020,� the official directive stated.
All this, however, came a little too late, as corroborated by the swelling crowds at market places at Sixmile, Beltola, Ganeshguri, Narengi, Silphukuri, Bamunimaidan, Fancy Bazar, etc.
�It was a shocking scenario this morning, with markets beginning to function as normal all of a sudden. The availability of fish and meat in particular attracted people in their hordes. It was a terrible decision by the government to allow sale of fish and meat and to open shops other than grocery and pharmacy,� Dilip Saikia, a resident of Narengi said, adding that the Kolongpar-Narengi bazar witnessed large-scale slaughtering of goats and pigs.
The situation across city markets was akin to what was happening at Narengi.
�The situation was made worse by the failure of the government officials and security personnel to enforce some discipline amid the chaos. We have seen in WhatsApp videos how people in other States are maintaining social distance while marketing in the presence of alert security personnel. What happened today is very disturbing and stands to negate the benefits achieved during the past three days� lockdown,� Nupur Das, a senior citizen of Chandmari area said.
Meanwhile, stung by the developments, the State government today issued a warning asking the citizens to follow the advisories for social distancing circulated earlier.
�Violation of the same will attract penal provisions under Section 188 of Indian Penal Code,� it said.
The citizens have also been asked to contact the State Control Room, Assam State Disaster Management Authority in case of any kind of emergency on numbers 1070, 1079, 94010-44617 and 0361-2237219.
While the State has so far not recorded any Covid-19 positive case, lack of respect for prohibitions among the masses and the reluctance of the official machinery to ensure social distancing can spell doom in the days ahead.