Citizenship (Amendment) Act stir: ATMs begin to run dry; people stock up essentials in Guwahati

Simran Kashyap

Guwahati, Dec 16: People in Guwahati made most of the relaxed curfew hours on Sunday stocking up vegetables and other daily essentials even as ATMs and petrol pumps began to run dry at several places.

In some relief to residents, markets at many places were open till 6.00 pm and prices of vegetables and fruits came down a bit compared to the rates a day before, and police authorities had allowed shops to run only till 4.00 pm before resuming the curfew tightly.

According to an official, curfew was relaxed from 9 am to 6 pm in Guwahati. However, many shops and markets from Hatigaon to Ganeshguri remained closed in Guwahati, as the indefinite curfew entered its fifth day.

At the GMC market in Ganeshguri, locals were seen buying large stocks of vegetables and fruits and daily usage items like flour, dal, sugar, bread, milk and eggs. "Prices are less compared to what it was yesterday and much less than what was it on Wednesday and Thursday when the protest had peaked.

Rates of potato are a bit high but onions are still hard to buy for customers," said Rajen Das, a grocery vendor. Madan Kumar Mahato, another vegetable vendor, said, "Police authorities have made announcements while patrolling in the morning but shops were to be closed by 6.00 pm."

"People got extra two hours on Sunday so they bought whatever they could, however, some of the items remained costly like the onion, oranges, 'bhootjholakia' (chili) and cauliflower," he said.

Onions were being sold in the Guwahati market from Rs 130 to Rs 150 per kg. Mahato was selling 'bhootjholakia', the famous chili of Assam, for Rs 600 per kg or Rs 20 for three pieces.

On regular days, this chili would cost Rs 400 per kg, he said. But buying vegetables and essentials is not the only challenge for residents of Guwahati which has been the epicentre of protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), now an Act (CAA).

Dispur MLA Atul Bora on Sunday also visited the Ganeshguri market to buy vegetables and fruits. "The situation appears better today but I don't know if it can remain so in the coming days. The situation was critical on Wednesday and Thursday when the prices of vegetables and fruits had skyrocketed," he told PTI.

In the city, several local residents said many ATMs were either beginning to run out of cash or saw long queues. Tutu Ali, a resident of Shankar Azan Path in Hatigaon, said, "Many ATMs I had gone to yesterday did not have cash. I have stocked up essentials, as the situation appears a bit less severe. But anything can happen tomorrow." He said the situation is similar at petrol pumps too as stocks are not getting replenished.

"Refuelling stations may be opened, but they are beginning to run dry at many places," Ali said, adding that many are going to pumps and buying petrol or diesel in bottles.

A mobile ATM was installed at a petrol pump in Guwahati which saw a long queue on Saturday. Dilip Samant, a West Bengal native who is in Guwahati for a company project, bought a dozen eggs, sugar and two packs of cigarette from a Kirana store in Hatigaon, saying "I want to be prepared for any eventuality." Meat shops also wore a deserted look as butchers waited ideally for customers.

Mutton is selling at a regular price of Rs 400 per kg and broiler chicken at Rs 120 per kg but hardly any customer are coming as people are facing cash crunch due to insufficient money in ATMs, a shopkeeper at Ganeshguri meat market said. Even though curfew hours have been relaxed a bit in the last two days, security forces kept a tight vigil in the city, and people were told to stay indoors after 6.00 pm on Sunday.

"Anyone found doing any mischief after dark will be put behind bars now. We don't want any unscrupulous elements to take advantage of the situation. Maintaining law and order is our top priority," a senior Assam Police officer told PTI. Internet services have been suspended in Guwahati since 7.00 pm on Wednesday to check the spread of rumours amidst the ongoing protests.

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