Chaos in Chandigarh as 2,000 Himachalis gather for evacuation
Only 1,314 were evacuated, with preference given to women and students
The evacuation of residents of Himachal Pradesh from the tricity began on a chaotic note as social distancing norm was ignored, while several people were denied boarding amid the curfew in Chandigarh.
A day after Himachal Pradesh government announced they were running special buses to bring home those stranded in the tricity, thousands gathered outside Himachal Bhawan in Sector 27 with huge anticipation. In fact, the crowd became so massive, even in the wee hours, that HP administration had to call the police to control it. Thereafter, it was decided that students and women would be given a priority, dashing the hopes of many others.
Of the 2,000 or so people gathered at the spot, only 1,314 were evacuated.
In a statement, Jai Ram Thakur, chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, said, “As many as 1,314 persons stranded in the tricity were brought back to the home state in 51 buses. These included 609 from Kangra, 335 from Hamirpur, 132 from Una and 238 from Chamba.”
Bihari Lal, who came to Sector 28 from Nayagaon around 5.30 am was denied boarding by authorities. “I came with great difficulty with my son and wife. It was raining so they asked us to sit in the hall. There were hundreds of others inside, and as the day progressed, more and more people began to come,” he said.
Suman Kumari, 50, who came from Sector 19 on foot, said, “We were asked to stand outside when they announced that the facility was only for females and students. However, the notice released by HP government did not mention so.”
“An argument broke out between people after which the police also resorted to violent means of controlling the situation. Some of us who were making videos of the episode were stopped from doing so by the police,” said Bihari Lal.
“It is pertinent to mention that Chandigarh has been designated as red zone by the Government of India while most Himachal districts are either in orange or green zones. The manner in which social distancing was ignored here will lead to a sharp increase in cases in HP,” said Shubham Thakur, an engineer based in IT park from Kangra.
In a statement, the Himachal CM said that people coming home particularly from the red or orange zones must ensure that while remaining in home quarantine, they maintain social distancing even with family members.
Omkar Chand Sharma, nodal officer, Himachal Pradesh, refused to comment on the matter whereas Sanjay Kundu, principal secretary to CM said that all protocols mandated by ministry of home affairs (MHA) were followed and communications to respective states and the UT were sent out. He also said that HP has clarified that only those who are stranded and in distress will be evacuated from now.
DSP Charanjeet, Chandigarh Police, said, “No one had expected that such a large crowd would gather. The HP government had called for Chandigarh police at 6 am, but many people had come even before that. Chandigarh Police later had to enforce social distancing.”