Cities deserted in UP as people observe 'Janata Curfew'

Lucknow, Mar 22 (PTI) The bustling cities of Uttar Pradesh, the country's most populous state, wore a deserted look on Sunday as residents stayed indoors in response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call for a nationwide 'Janta Curfew' to check the spiralling numbers of coronavirus cases.

The streets were eerily quiet, with the silence interrupted every few hours by 'azaan' or prayer call from mosques.

Shops in busy marketplaces of Hazratganj, Aminabad, Gomtinagar, Aliganj and Kaiserbagh areas of the state capital were shut, while police vehicles patrolled the streets.

Cinema halls, multiplexes, cafes, restaurants and bars also remained closed.

Similar scenes were witnessed in Allahabad, Faizabad, Kanpur, Gorakhpur, Raebareli, Badaun, Bareilly, Jhansi, Banda, Shahjahanpur, Amethi and other parts of the state.

Amid surging coronavirus cases in the country over the past few weeks, fewer people have been stepping out of their homes. This has severely affected daily wagers like rickshaw pullers.

Narrating his hardship, Ganesh, a rickshaw puller in Lucknow, said 'I have been pulling rickshaw in Lucknow for the past five-six years. In the past few days, my earnings have come down. After paying a daily rent of Rs 40, I am left with Rs 50-100, which I use to buy food. On a normal day, I earn around Rs 250.' Later in the evening, minutes before 5 pm, people gathered in their balconies and at the doorsteps of their houses, clapping, blowing conch shells, ringing bells and metal plates to express gratitude towards those associated with essential services.

During his appeal for 'Janta Curfew', Modi had asked people to express gratitude to doctors, paramedics, police and others at the frontline of the battle against coronavirus.

'I could not wait for the clock to strike five, so I along with my niece blew conch shells to send a message of unity among the countrymen in this hour of crisis,' said Shraboni Dey Kirty, a resident of Shivaji Marg.

'Soon other people in our locality came out onto their balconies and terraces and joined us. They started clapping, blowing conch shells, ringing bells and metal plates,' she said.

People across age groups participated in the brief exercise.

A retired teacher T N Singh, who lives near Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow also cheered and applauded those associated with emergency services along with his family.

In a televised address to the nation on Thursday, Modi had called for the 'Janata Curfew' from 7 am to 9 pm on March 22, saying no citizen, barring those in essential services, should get out of their houses.

He had asserted that it will be a litmus test to show India's readiness to take on the coronavirus challenge.

Novel coronavirus cases in the country climbed to 360 on Sunday. Uttar Pradesh has reported 27 cases so far, according to the Union Health Ministry. PTI NAV DIV DIV