DOOMDOOMA, March 30 - At a time when the country is fighting to control the spread of COVID-19 by observing a lockdown, the Tinsukia district administration issued an order on March 26 allowing the Personal Product Factory (PPF) of Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) to operate the factory, which led to strong resentment among the workers and the public. Following strong public criticism, the district administration had to cancel the permission.
According to information, the manager of the factory urged the district administration through a letter on March 26 to allow them to operate the factory. Accordingly, the Additional District Magistrate issued an order on the same day, allowing them to undertake only emergency services and manufacturing of essential commodities in two shifts � from 6 am to 2 pm, and 2 pm to 10 pm � subject to the condition that the employees required for the essential services must be carried by company vehicles.
The order also stated that the staff engaged in the manufacturing unit must maintain social distance and due hygiene norms.
After receiving permission, the factory management started calling the workers over phone to start the factory from Friday morning. But, majority of the workers were reluctant to go for duty. The management on Friday held a discussion with the two unions of workers affiliated to CITU and INTUC, but failed to convince the workers.
Talking to the media, the union leaders said they informed the management that the workers would not come for duty during the lockdown. �If any worker is willing to attend duty, we have no objection. But, the management should not force them to work,� they added.
The public and several organisations expressed strong resentment over the decision of the company as well as the district administration. Many said that the government order mentioned only the manufacture of essential commodities. But this factory manufacturers only items like toothpaste, shampoo, hair conditioner and fairness cream, which by no means are essential commodities.
A few organisations lodged a complaint with the Tinsukia Deputy Commissioner, and finally, the administration by a new order dated March 28 cancelled the permission order on Saturday with immediate effect.
Home quarantine violator booked: Though the government in clear terms had announced that people who had stamps on their hands should be home quarantined, and any violation of this rule would invite strict action under the Disaster Management Act, but some people having such stamps on their hands have been moving around in several parts of Tinsukia district.
A few such cases have come to light in Tinsukia and Doomdooma. In one such case, the Tinsukia district administration has taken suo motu cognizance against one Rakesh Agarwal, a pharmacist and owner of Aran Medicos. An FIR has been filed against Agarwal at the Tinsukia PS, with orders to shut down the pharmacy until further orders.
Agarwal had recently visited Rajasthan and returned on March 22. Though he was stamped for home quarantine, he went to the pharmacy on March 24. Police registered a case under Section 188 and 271 of the Indian Penal Code.
It has also been alleged that in some places, youths engaged in jobs in various states of India had returned home recently and concealed themselves indoors without any medical check-up. Though a few such cases have been reported in different police stations, some cases are yet to be attended to.
Some people were also found loitering on the roads defying the lockdown in various places including Tinsukia, Doomdooma, Digboi, Margherita, Kakopothar, Talap, Dholla and Sadiya. Police and paramilitary forces had to use baton to send back such violators home.
The Tinsukia district administration has designated some vegetable hawkers to carry out doorstep delivery of vegetables in the 10 wards of Doomdooma Municipal Board area from 7 am to 3 pm on alternate days.
The administration made this provision only for residents under the Doomdooma Municipal Board. A large number of people living in rural areas on the outskirts of the town like Beesakopie, Rupbon Rupai Siding, etc., who are completely dependent on the Doomdooma town market have urged the administration to make similar arrangements for them.