In several parts Himachal Pradesh people queued-up to purchase essential items, indulged in panic-buying and flouted social-distancing norms on Thursday.
People queued up at ration and daily-need shops in Shimla as the curfew was relaxed for three hours and markets opened-up after three days.
Social-distancing norms were not followed as huge crowds emerged at the main markets, especially at Subzi Mandi and the Lower Bazaar.
People beelined to markets as they claimed there is uncertainty about how long the lockdown will continue for and engaged in panic-buying.
One way traffic was restored to the Subzi Mandi. Senior citizens, who did not have a caretaker, were harassed and forced to stand in long queues.
“Whatever precautionary measures were taken during the past three days have been negated within three hours as stocks of vegetables, fruits and milk etc were limited. People were uncontrollable,” said another resident Arun Sharma, adding that the government should relax curfew for wholesalers and retailers on alternate days and increase the hours to avoid crowding.
The situation was better in the outskirts of Shimla and people wore masks and maintained socially distant.
However, people engaged in panic-buying of milk, vegetables, fruits and ration and some small shopkeepers exhausted their stocks within an hour.
The shopkeepers asked people to buy less so that all people in the locality could get groceries and other items.
Some shopkeepers said that they would close the shops after the relaxation is over as people would not be visiting the market. Chemist shops were open but older people were unable to stock-up due to huge rush.
“We hope that curfew would be relaxed daily and its duration would be increased to avoid crowding as all the efforts to fight coronavirus would be negated if social distancing is not maintained,” said another senior citizen, Kishan Kumar, adding that he and some other retired persons used to gather at Mall Road and bask in the sun but “coronavirus had now put an end to the privelegde”.
With relaxation in the curfew in the Sirmaur district, people beelined to the ration shops at Nahan, Paonta Sahib, Rajgarh and other areas of the district. Though efforts have been made by the district management to ensure supply of items like rice, flour, pulses and vegetables, people scrambled to stock-up supplies. Traders said trucks carrying ration items from Delhi were unable to reach the state and they would not be able to cater to the overwhelming demand in the coming days if the situation did not ease. Price of all items has registered a 15 to 20 per cent increase, according to vegetable traders who secure vegetables from Chandigarh.
Milk was sold at a higher price than the printed rate as people had begun hoarding it.
People defied social-distancing norms as they stepped out to buy vegetables, medicines and fruits in various parts of Solan district. Vehicles moved about freely on roads even though they were not allowed to ply. People congregated on the roads instead of going home after buying the necessary articles. A large number of people were seen outside ration shops in Dharampur, Solan, Kasauli and other towns where no system has been created to ensure social-distancing.
Panic-struck people were hoarding essential items and buying large quantities of wheat flour, rice, vegetable and pulses. Traders were unable to cater to the demand and they advised people to purchase lesser quantities.