A departmental store, which has almost run out of stock, at Navi Mumbai on Wednesday. (Photo by Amit Chakravarty)
Mumbaikars’ scramble to restock their pantries in response to the national lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi continued for the second day on Wednesday but eased off in the evening after repeated assurances by the state that it had ample supplies to see the city through this crisis.
Wednesday morning saw massive crowds at Dadar and Byculla vegetable markets as people gathered to stock up on vegetables and fruits. The panic buying meant that most of the produce got sold quickly and those who arrived late had to pay a premium.Saira Shaikh, a resident of Agripada, rushed to Byculla market at 7 am to get vegetables but was shocked to find that the otherwise bustling market had hardly any vegetables while those available were being sold at nearly double the rates. “People had to jostle their way to get these vegetables. Lady finger that until two days ago was being sold at Rs 40 a kg, cost Rs 120 a kg. Basic vegetables such as tomato and potato were also being sold double the rate," Shaikh said.
A vegetable vendor on MG Road at Kandivli (West), Shankar Mandal, said all vegetables were being sold at Rs 20 to Rs 30 extra due to low supply. Wholesale vegetable vendors blamed the high cost on the short supply of produce and claimed that at many places, police were not allowing produce and workers to reach the markets. “We are getting 50 per cent less supply due to the lockdown. At some places, police stopped our vehicles that were supposed to reach the city.” said Bablu Patil, a wholesale supplier in Dadar.
There are a total of 4,331 vegetable, fruits and grocery vendors in the 55 municipal markets of the city. BMC officials said all the markets remained functional. To tide over the crisis, the BMC has made temporary arrangements for 95 vendors to set up fruits and vegetable stalls at Topiwala market.
In Goregaon (West), long queues were seen outside stores that were open. Shopkeepers said basic items such as flour and oil were available in limited quantities.
Kishore Patel, who works at Shivam Super Shoppy in Kandivli (West), said the stock should suffice for only two or three days. “Transport is shut since three days and we don't know when things will resume," he added. Shopkeepers also complained that they feared for the safety of their workers. “I am concerned about the safety of my staff. None of the customers want to wait or have patience and they are crowding inside and outside the store. Some have also come for a second time in two days to stock up," the owner of Dinesh Store in Bangur Nagar area said.
Shopkeepers, meanwhile, used novel techniques to ensure social distancing. At Roman General Store in Juhu, people were asked to write down what they need on a sheet of paper outside and wait for their turn to pick up orders. At several shops on the Juhu-Versova Link Road, however, there was not much crowd. A provision store owner said their worry was how long their stocks would last.
In some shops, like Maharashtra Trading Co in Jogeshwari, circles were drawn on the road with chalk at some distance from each other. The customers had to stand in these circles while waiting in line.
There was also a rush to get LPG cylinders. Shekhar Bhalerao from Byculla had to first book an LPG cylinder on his cellphone. After getting a confirmation message, he had to rush to the gas agency to get a slip and then show the same at a third location to get one. While there was panic buying till afternoon, things seemed to stablise later in the evening, as crowds around shops reduced.
“The announcement of a lockdown had set off panic. Many people, however, seem to have realised that shops will remain open and the crowds reduced in the evening,” a Reliance Mart employee in Kharghar said.
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