Maharashtra govt urges people to stay home during Gudi Padwa

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Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said, “People should raise “gudi” in their respective homes if they want. But coming out on the street and taking procession of celebrations is strictly prohibited.” (Express file photo)

The state government on Tuesday urged people not to take out processions or street shows to celebrate Gudi Padwa, the new year of Maharashtrians, on Wednesday, March 25.

While reminding people to strictly enforce “home stay” to combat COVID-19, the government warned police action if anybody was found violating the norms under the pretext of celebrations or annual rituals. Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said, “People should raise “gudi” in their respective homes if they want. But coming out on the street and taking procession of celebrations is strictly prohibited.”

Reiterating the significance of social distancing, he said the government has given adequate powers to police to crack down on individuals violating the guidelines. Section 144, prohibiting people to gather in groups, will continue.

“All essential grains, milk, vegetables and fruits and medicines will be available in adequate stock regularly,” Pawar said, adding that there was no reason to panic. He said illegal hoarding of essential items, escalation of price or artificial shortage of sanitisers and masks by traders and retailers will be dealt with firmly.

State Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari on Wednesday said, “Even as we are readying to celebrate Gudi Padwa, the state is passing through an unprecedented situation...The success of the efforts of the government depends on the complete cooperation from the people....”

Vendors, grocery stores braced for disruption in supplies

Even before Prime Minister Narendra Modi's declaration of a 21-day lockdown, jittery neighbourhood vegetable vendors and grocery stores braced for disruption in supplies due to uncertainty over the possible closure of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee market in Vashi, from where Mumbai gets its essentials.

A grocery shopowner at Andheri East said, "We are running short of supplies since mathadi labourers who unload goods in wholesale markets are unavailable. Therefore, we are not getting fresh stock. Moreover, some people are buying rice, pulses, biscuits in excess. We will have to take out buffer stock soon, after which nothing will be left."

The shopowner added that rumours on social media about restricted timings for essential services shops led to more panic. While Mumbai Police debunked the message as fake on Twitter, by then the damage had been done.

At New Welcome Store in Andheri, shopkeeper Sunil Prasad said he had stocks only for a week. “There is uncertainty about whether there will be supplies. For items such as oil and soap, wholesalers come to take orders. They have not been coming since a few days and hence, we have not had any deliveries," Prasad said.

A few vegetable and fruit shops that opened saw customers lining up with apprehensions that there would be no more supplies by the end of the week. “We buy vegetables from the market in Dadar, which gets supplies from APMC. Today, our supplier told us to not come tomorrow as the stock has not arrived from Nashik to the main market," said a vegetable seller in Andheri.

The fish market at Four Bungalows, which remained shut on the weekend, saw a few sellers. "We are from the local koliwadas in Versova. We were told by the police not to set up shop yesterday but were allowed to today. Many fishermen are staring at severe losses," said Shantibai, a fish seller from Versova.

Even though grocery shops and vegetable vendors have been allowed to open as essential service, several were shut on Tuesday. A fruit vendor at Kandivali's Patel Nagar said there was uncertainty about getting supply of fruits and vegetables. "What we know for sure is that tomorrow there will be no selling of fruits or vegetables in this area. We have not been getting any stock," said vendor Chandu Gupta.

In Tilak Nagar, vegetable vendors complained about police shutting down their shops when there was a crowd.

"After seeing crowds in shops in the afternoon, some police personnel came and told us to shut the shop. Along with me, another shop that sells groceries and other essentials was so shut for half an hour because of crowd,"said the shopowner.