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Coronavirus curfew: Hunger, jostling for food, chaos in Chandigarh colonies

People struggle to get their hands on food packets, while completing forgetting social distancing, the primary objective of curfew; several return empty handed

Updated: Mar 27, 2020 01:13 IST

By Hindustan Times, Chandigarh, Hindustan Times Chandigarh

Administration staff organising vegetables for door-to-door delivery on a CTU bus at Sector 41 in Chandigarh on Thursday. (Keshav Singh/HT)

Even as supply of vegetables and milk improved gradually in sectors, people from the economically weaker sections struggled with erratic supplies, with many swarming near vendors and supply trucks, inviting infection risk in a city under curfew for the third day to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Food packets to the poor promised by the UT administration did not reach parts of the city’s labour and slum colonies, checks with people there revealed.

The situation in Dhanas turned tense as police were called in to disperse a crowd of over 200 gathered in a colony park after a local political promised to distribute free food.

Social distancing was impossible in a colony where more than 50,000 people lived in 8,400 cramped housing units, said Prem Pal Chouhan, president of the Dhanas Rehabilitated Colony Welfare Association.



No grocery or vegetables reached the area. “I dialled one vendor as per the UT list but he replied he had not been given a vehicle for distribution of essentials,” Chauhan added.

“On top of that, some politicians are luring crowds by promising them free rice and sugar. Is this how we will stem the coronavirus threat?” he asked.

Distribution vehicles mobbed

Supplies organised by the administration were not enough for crowds that virtually mobbed two trucks in Dadumajra to get the Rs 750 packages, each containing 10 kg flour, some pulses and spices for colonies.

Area councillor Farmilla said the trucks were sent after she made repeated calls to MC officials, but people forgot about social distancing and crowded around the vehicles, stripping them bare in minutes.

“A majority were left empty handed. This kind of distribution is very dangerous. I urge the UT to keep chemist and grocery stores open in peripheries and allow only one person per home to buy essentials,” she said

Local shops closed

Many poor families went hungry as police didn’t allow local shops to open in Mauli Jagran near Manimajra.

People did not get essentials such as flour and sugar for two to three days, said local resident Mukesh Rai.

None of the shops have stock. “The administration should give shopkeepers passes so that they can restock their shops and feed people,” Rai said.

Former mayor Rajesh Kalia, who represents Maloya colony, urged the administration to focus more on distribution.

Police had to be called to control the crowds in the Makhan Majra labour colony, many of them who had been unable to earn anything in the last few days. Shashi Shankar Tewari, a senior Congress leader active in colonies, said thousands of daily wagers had no money to feed their families and UT’s free ration was not reaching them.

He asked the administration to engage NGOs and religious organisations to distribute free food over there.

Blaming the BJP for the mismanagement on the ground, Congress local president Pardeep Chhabra said, “We do understand that things are not smooth during the lockdown but it is unfair that the poor sleep on empty stomachs.”

BJP local president Arun Sood said that Congress should not play politics, adding, “Our workers are helping in distribution and coordinating with the UT administration to streamline the system.”

MC commissioner KK Yadav was not available for comments despite repeated attempts

TROUBLE SPOTS

Local milk producers not getting feed for cattle that can affect milk supply and starvation of animals

People going cashless as ATM are closed and mobile ATMs are not covering all spots

Officers keeping their mobile switched off, adding to the woes of the residents

Closed flour mills could mean shortage of flour in the near future

Sanitisation not being done near homes people in quarantine

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