Chaos in city as buyers mock social distancing
SHILLONG: Chaos reigned supreme in parts of the city on Friday as citizens came out in hordes to procure essential items during curfew, which has been imposed in view of the coronavirus pandemic, but the outskirts maintained discipline and followed social distancing.
Shillong witnessed a relaxation window from 9 am to 5 pm for citizens to buy essential commodities at grocery and fair price shops in various localities as identified by the state government. But people in certain areas like Jhalupara, Mawbah, Laban, Madanrting and Laitumkhrah barely followed guidelines and made a mockery of social distancing, which is mandatory to contain the spread of COVID-19.
In Laitumkhrah, distraught buyers did not maintain a distance of one metre and police personnel were seen staring at the crowd helplessly. In Laban, residents rebuffed the request of volunteers to not rush and some retorted by saying, "Senior citizen!"
In other localities, some groups were seen loitering and watching people shop, thus violating the advisory to stay home.
However, many customers queuing up in front of shops told The Shillong Times that the crowd was because many shops were closed and they had to depend on a few for stocking up food items. Moreover, there was no proper guidance from any quarters.
Congress leader Fearless Warjri, who was among the buyers at Laitumkhrah market, blamed "dreadful logistics" for the chaos. "The forces available were meagre (to guide the crowd). No one had any idea about the supply chain and some shops ran out of stock.
Allowing a few shops to open is a bad idea," he said.
Warjri was among the many hassled consumers who demanded more shops to be open on Saturday.
The same 9 am to 5 pm relaxation window will follow on Saturday.
While residents of some localities stood in long queues with marked distance, surprisingly a large number of people came out in Barapathar, Laban and other areas of mixed population without paying heed to social distancing.
When the situation went out of control in Mawbah, police resorted to mild force to disperse the crowd and shops were shut.
The state government has been stressing on social distancing but the situation was chaotic in many areas in the absence of proper monitoring.
Headmen and volunteers of certain localities played active roles in maintaining order and ensuring that the distribution was hassle-free.
Willingness Nongrum, a member of Seng Samla Bishnupur, said people know everything about the COVID-19 but some of them do not follow social distancing.
He informed that they drew lines so that there would be one metre distance between buyers. "We must be very careful as one infection here is enough for all of us to be in trouble," he said.
S Swett, headman of Bishnupur, said the government has taken good measures but the order regarding the opening of shops should have come out earlier so that adequate preparations could have been made. "It seems some people have a notion that everybody will die except them and hence they don't follow social distancing," he added.
A buyer identified as M Prasad said he had to wait in queue for one hour after which he got the essential commodities. Another buyer said he stood in the queue at 9 am but reached the shop counter at 4 pm.
There were some unlucky people as well who could not get the essential items even after standing for two hours. Hoarding was also a common sight as people carried multiple sacks of essentials.
Scarcity of eggs
Eggs became the most sought after commodity and several shops in the city ran out of stock much before 5 pm. Basic items like onions and potatoes were also scarce.
In rural Meghalaya, local dorbars in collaboration with the district administration carried out smooth distribution of essential goods through designated grocery shops and fair price shops.