Social distancing in shreds outside liquor shops across the country
In scenes that should scare one and all, norms of social distancing went for a toss on Monday morning when liquor shops across the nation opened for the first time after more than 40 days. The vends were allowed to function in green, orange, and red zones (not the containment areas) from today. But every guideline the government issued was flouted. Here's what happened.
Shut since March 25, when the first lockdown was announced, liquor shops were exempted from restrictions in the latest circular of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The government finally caved in after repeated pleas from state governments to open liquor shops, which are a major source of revenue. In the directive, it was said shops can't allow more than five people at one time.
As soon as shuttered gates of liquor stores opened, people flouted all rules of social distancing, perhaps destroying whatever progress the country made in the fight against coronavirus. The rule of maintaining "do gaz doori" was flouted and serpentine queues were spotted at various areas. In some places, the queues went for as long as two kilometers.
Outside a liquor store in Kashmere Gate, New Delhi, police took to lathi-charge as people flouted social distancing guidelines. Over 100 shops, outside the containment zones in Delhi, opened this morning but some of them in Laxmi Nagar, Mayur Vihar, and Krishna Nagar areas, were shut as managing the crowd became impossible. SHO, Karol Bagh, Maninder Singh confirmed one store was closed.
Upset that a vendor failed to maintain social distancing at his store, Delhi Police decided to shut all liquor shops in East Delhi. Jasmeet Singh, DCP (East), said, "Police was not informed about the opening of shops." Reportedly, Delhi Police is planning to extend the timings of wine shops to avoid chaos. Shops were asked to have sufficient stocks to let customers purchase more.
Similar scenes were reported from Karnataka, where liquor stores were allowed to function between 9 am and 7 pm. In Uttar Pradesh, stores will remain open from 10 am to 7 pm. Madhya Pradesh has decided to open the stores tomorrow, except in cities like Indore, Bhopal, Ujjain, that have been battered.
In Maharashtra, the Maha Vikas Aghadi government allowed liquor stores to open even in the red zones. Slamming this decision, AIMIM Lok Sabha MP Imtiaz Jaleel said now was not the time to open these stores and "create problems for women". "Will make many women come out on streets," he said in a tweet, hinting that a protest in on the cards.
Much like its other decisions related to the lockdown — the exodus of migrant workers, not being able to trace infected Tablighi Jamaat members earlier, and the lack of proper communication — the government seems to have taken another ill-thought-through call by opening liquor vends. India's economy can't clearly sustain another extended lockdown and an exit strategy is needed at the earliest.
Meanwhile in Mirzapur, liquor shop owners shower flower petals on customers queuing up outside their shops. 😂— Prashant Kumar (@scribe_prashant) May 4, 2020