An empty Goa street. (Photo: Smita Nair/File)
On Sunday, Goa reported two more positive cases of coronavirus, taking the total so far to five. But news of COVID-19 was overshadowed by the chaos in the implementation of the 21-day lockdown, with erratic supply of food and essentials causing confusion and panic.
What sharpened the anger over the food supplies running dry were videos that did the rounds of social media on Sunday of CISF personnel beating and getting locals to do squats. On Saturday, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had called for the CISF, saying police and CISF would be sent to the interiors of Goa too and “later, no one should say he has been hit because he was outside the house”.
Speaking of the chaotic distribution network, Sapna Shahani, a Pilerne resident, said, “The home delivery system of the government relies on a volunteer pass. But that usually comes with a recommendation and ordinary citizens cannot get it. That’s hampering the emergency needs. The panchayats have put out countless numbers, saying we can call for supplies, but they are also not working. It’s a mess.”
What added to the confusion was that while the Chief Minister continued to request people to stay at home and avail of home delivery services — which the government announced on March 27 after a rap on the knuckles from the High Court of Bombay at Goa — ruling MLAs arranged for food to be distributed and asked voters to come to community halls to collect those.
Rohit Braz Dsa, the advocate who had approached the court, said, “Stocks and supply chains are being disrupted with essentials being supplied through MLA offices while licenced grocery shops continue to remain empty,” he said, adding that he would approach the court again.
On Sunday morning, Aparna Kamath from Dauna Paula was out at 5 am, “hunting for milk”. Kamath said, “No one willingly moves out of house. We all are aware of the dangers, but what do we do when stocks dry at home.”
Srikrishna Hardalnkar, the former sarpanch of Chorão island, said, “We all waited patiently till Sunday morning, and finally lost it. Milk is over, there are no vegetables. There’s nothing beyond some rice and dal which too we started sharing among families...”
“People are scared to even open shops here as they have not been prepared or briefed properly. We were not left with even a biscuit,” he added.
By afternoon, a “protest letter” drafted by lawyers, addressed to the Chief Minister and Chief Secretary Parimal Rai, gathered signatures from Goans across north and south districts.
“People are on the roads on account of lack of clarity and confusion due to constantly changing announcements about supply of essential commodities and services, with no real systematic access to food. To blame this situation on the people on the roads is to absolve the State’s own responsibility.” the letter read.
When contacted, IGP Jaspal Singh said, “Those with valid reasons, or who can show prescription for medicine and drugs, and emergency needs, do not have to fear. We are only strict against those who are flouting the lockdown rules and roaming with no purpose.”
Chief Minister Sawant later told reporters that only “10-15 per cent Goans were facing trouble getting groceries” and that everyone doesn’t need to go to shop. “I am seeing people going out to buy a sachet of shampoo. These are not necessities,” he said.
Two more cases reported in state
Of the two COVID-19 cases Goa reported on Sunday, one is a person who worked in a ship and reached New York from Bahamas, from where he came to Mumbai and then, took a flight to Goa. The second is a person who had come in contact with a person from Chorao, who had earlier tested positive. Both of them are stable, said Health Minister Viswajit Rane. A 68-year-old woman with respiratory problems died on Sunday. “We are still awaiting her results,” Rane said.
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