North to South, East to West: Empty

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Chennai Central during the nationwide Janata Curfew on Sunday. (Express Photo by Arun Janardhanan)

Overwhelming response across the country to the Prime Minister’s call for a Janata Curfew. At 5 pm, people everywhere applauded those at the forefront of the battle against the coronavirus threat. From the states, The Indian Express captures the day.

Jammu & Kashmir

From the hilly terrains in Chenab Valley and Pir Panjal regions adjoining Kashmir Valley to the plains of Kathua bordering Punjab, people across Jammu region stayed indoors in response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for Janata Curfew. The Muslim majority Pir Panjal-Chenab Valley and the predominantly Hindu inhabited plains of Jammu, Samba and Kathua had often sparred — 2008 Amarnath land row claimed lives of a dozen people across Jammu province and the 2013 Kishtwar communal riots on Eid killed three people. Recently, the Centre’s move to abrogate Article 370 drew sharp protests from Pir Panjal and Chenab Valley areas, while the plains of Jammu were muted. People in Kashmir too stayed off the streets. But unlike the rest of the country, it was the security forces that imposed a curfew on Sunday. People didn't beat clap or clank utensils as requested by Prime Minister Modi.

Uttarakhand

In the most visited tourist towns, residents stayed indoors. Mussoorie and Dehradun, which were full of tourists weeks ago, looked like ghost towns as the state has banned entry of tourists. Meditative calmness descended on the religious cities of Rishikesh and Haridwar. At Dehradun station, only five trains chugged in during the day with less than half the usual passengers, who were screened by doctors. Many passengers walked lugging their bags as taxis and buses stayed off roads. The police stopped commuters and quizzed them for moving out during the curfew and requested them to stay at home “in the interest of the nation”.

Andhra & Telangana

People stayed indoors and health officials trooped out to sanitise public places. While neighbourhood temples closed after prayers before 6 am, the government ordered shut all main religious places, including the Lord Venkateshwara temple at Tirumala. In Hyderabad, bustling areas such as Kukatpally, Hitec City, Begum Bazar, Charminar and Abids were deserted. Police patrolled the streets, and turned back home curfew-breakers. A bus was intercepted at Telangana-Maharashtra border and 40 passengers, who had returned from Qatar, were detained. They were travelling to Hyderabad from Mumbai and had quarantine seals on their wrists. Several others who had arrived at Hyderabad airport late and advised quarantine were handed over to police by people who found them at bus station and railway stations trying to go to their native places across Telangana or AP. One more person tested positive for Covid 19 today at Hyderabad, taking the number of cases to 26.

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NDRF personnel at work near Charminar on Sunday. (AP)

Goa

Goans let go the sun, the sand and tourists for a day. The tourists spots, beaches, iconic Mapusa and Panjim markets, food stalls, shacks and cruise jetties remained shut. But fearing that people might go out at 9 pm, the chief minister advised people to stay in after the curfew end-time. As the curfew was drawing to a close, Goa extended it by three more days . At tourist stretches like Baga, Calangute and Anjuna and Candolim, the beaches were empty. At the mouth of Calangute Beach, owner of Ratna Sagar Mohan Shetty said, “If this is the only solution then might as well.” The loss to the entire industry with the shutters coming down is expected to be in lakhs. At Porvorim in north Goa, four taxies ferrying Dubai-returned tourists were asked to go to a local police station and fill in their details before being taken to a testing centre. Since Saturday night, the tourist vehicles were asked to return to their respective states with no entry to heavy passenger vehicle buses.

Rajasthan

People in Rajasthan, which has reported 26 cases, remained indoors, with the latest case being reported from Jodhpur. Transport Minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas took a round of the old city in Jaipur where the historic sites of Hawa Mahal, the walled city, Badi Chaupad, Tripolia Market, Mirza Ismail road, etc. in Jaipur remained silent. Around 5 pm, men, women and children came out, breaking social distancing norms, to thank the essential service providers. The civil society and human rights organisations, meanwhile, appealed to Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot to supply ration and money to the daily wage labourers, destitutes, vendors who could go hungry in the state-wide lockdown. There are at least 24,880 people in Jaipur who face an uncertain future following the loss of livelihood, said activists, led by Kavita Srivastava of the Rajasthan president of People’s Union for Civil Liberties.

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Esplanade in Kolkata on Sunday. (Express Photo by Partha Paul)

Kerala

Kerala, a state that’s not alien to dawn-to-dusk shutdowns, took the self-imposed curfew in its stride and stayed indoors. The CPM- ruled government gave a thumbs up to the call by Prime Minister Modi. Cities, public places, roads wore a deserted look from the morning. Buses, taxis and even private vehicles kept off roads, and shops remained closed though there was nobody on the road to impose the curfew. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his cabinet colleagues stayed home. The state government urged people to clean the premises of their homes on the day, which some of the ministers too practised. At 5 pm, people turned up at the courtyards and balconies of their homes, to pay tribute to the health workers fighting COVID-19.

Tamil Nadu

As the state remained indoors on Sunday, not less than 1,000 passengers at the Chennai Central railway station, mostly migrant workers from northern states, struggled to convince the authorities to not send them back to their workplaces. Around 4pm on Sunday, railway police personnel and a few city police officers were seen trying to pacify the people, who were raising slogans seeking a train to Howrah and other places in North India. Many of them, starving from the previous night, were seen using towels or their shirts as masks. On Sunday, the state reported three more cases of infection, taking the total number of cases to nine. The state on Sunday extended the Janata curfew till 5am on Monday. In the three districts of Chennai, Kancheepuram and Erode that will be under lockdown, authorities have suspended all train services till March 31.

West Bengal

As people stayed indoors to break the chain, the city enjoyed a collateral benefit — clean air. The PM 2.5 readings more than halved at many places. The Janata curfew was successful across West Bengal. The number of passengers in the suburban trains was low. Under South-Eastern Railway, a few suburban trains ran, but found few takers. Few government buses plied and taxis too stayed off the streets. The state government has also ordered a ban on inter- state buses to and from West Bengal till March 31. At 5 pm, residents in houses and housing complexes went to their balconies and courtyards to ring bells and clap to express their gratitude to people engaged in essential services in the time of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Jharkhand

The people of the state, which is yet to report a positive case, stayed indoors. The traders downed shutters, public and private transport stayed off the roads in Ranchi and other areas. On Sunday, the Ranchi administration pasted posters outside the houses of people who are in home quarantine. It read: “Home under quarantine. Do not go inside”.

Maharashtra

People in Mumbai and Pune responded enthusiastically to the call for Janata Curfew. In most places, people remained indoors during the day. At 5 pm, they clapped, beat utensils and burst firecrackers. A policeman on patrol at Versova said, “We have been on the roads since morning... Hardly anyone has stepped out”. In Andheri (East), many people were seen chanting slogans such as Bharat Mata ki Jai and Vande Mataram from their balconies. Several people played musical instruments such as dholak, flute and guitar. Some members in housing societies in Goregaon played songs and chanted Ramdas Athawale’s ‘Go Corona’ slogan. Police in Pune imposed a curfew from 9 pm on Sunday till 5 am on Monday. Officials said the orders were issued because of concern that people may come out of houses in large numbers after the time of the Janata Curfew. “I would say it was almost 100 per cent response across the city,” said Pune City’s Joint Police Commissioner (Law and Order) Ravindra Shisve.

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A view of an otherwise busy street in Ahmedabad. (Express Photo by Javed Raja)

Bihar

Bihar, which reported the first death from novel coronavirus infection in Patna on Sunday, heeded to the Prime Minister’s call and stayed indoors. Opposition RJD, which initially called it a “farce”, supported it. RJD spokesperson Mrityunjay Tewary said: “We have supported it fully because it is for the health and well-being of all. We have also joined in beating utensils and decided to close our party headquarters till March 31”. Aurangabad town, where communal tension has been simmering, exhibited a show of solidarity with both Hindus and Muslims beating utensils together. Bihar CM Nitish Kumar said Janata curfew was “a very effective way of social distancing”.

Odisha

State capital Bhubaneswar remained deserted throughout the day. Overall, 40 platoons of police force were stationed at various points in Bhubaneswar. Puri’s Grand Road, one of the busiest in the state, was empty. Similarly, shutdowns were observed in districts such as Cuttack and Ganjam. Empty buses lined up at the bus stand as the state shut down public transport. Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy, 5T Secretary V K Pandian and Skill Odisha Chairperson Subroto Bagchi were seen clapping outside Lok Sewa Bhawan at 5 pm. Odisha State Medical Services Association has released a letter to the state health department, informing that “in the District Headquarter hospital and other periphery institutions there are insufficient masks, sanitizers and PPE (personal protective equipment) kits”. The letter warns, “There is high chance of infections to health care providers. If that happens, we will enter into phase III of pandemic and that is very dangerous”.

North-East

From five minutes before 5pm, Guwahati started reverberating with clanging of utensils, claps and blowing of conch shells as a mark of respect for those on the frontline of the battle against coronavirus and partly in relief over the news that a four-and-a-half-year-old girl from Jorhat who tested positive in the first test last evening tested negative in the second confirmatory test. As of now, Assam has not reported COVID-19 cases. Chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal urged people to continue Janata Curfew till 8 am Monday. Nagaland ordered a near total shutdown from Monday. Commercial passenger vehicles, both public and private, would not be allowed to ply and movement of all public is restricted. The government of Mizoram also announced a near lockdown from Sunday.

Gujarat

The cities of Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot remained quiet till they decided to say thanks with drums, bugles, fireworks, and claps at 5 pm. Dariapur, a communally sensitive area of Ahmedabad, witnessed complete shutdown following the PM’s call for ‘Janata Curfew’. The Muslims offered (prayers) for the well-being of all, especially those working to check the spread of COVID-19. Rafiq Nagriwala, a senior citizen from Dariapur and a social worker, said, “To check the spread of the virus and for well-being of all, we performed mass prayers.” Though shops remained closed and roads were relatively empty, many people were seated outside either enjoying a game of cricket, or a cup of tea. Nearly 7 km away from where the first positive case was reported in Vadodara, in Makarpura area, young and old blew trumpets, clapped and banged steel plates at 5 pm. Across the Ellisbridge on the eastern bank of the Sabarmati river, the Bishop of the CNI church, Gujarat, Silvanc Christian conducted the Sunday service online.

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The Gateway of India on Sunday. (Express Photo by Nirmal Harindran)

Punjab

“After the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, it is for the first time that I have seen such a lockdown when markets were closed and people did not come out. It reminded me of the old days in Punjab,” said Satwant Kaur (74), a resident of Mohali. The Janata Curfew was complete in Punjab. The industrial city of Ludhiana wore a deserted look. Jalandhar also witnessed complete shutdown. It was all quiet in the holy city of Amritsar, with the Golden Temple witnessing only a few devotees. Akal Takht Jathedar Harpreet Singh chose this day to send a message to Sikhs across the world to observe self-quarantine. People began to step out around 5 pm when they gathered at the gates of their houses with plates, bells and conch shells to express their gratitude to doctors, police and others. To ensure success of ‘Janata curfew’ in rural areas, announcements were being made from religious places asking people to not step out.

Karnataka

Streets in Bengaluru and other parts of the state wore a deserted look as the Janata Curfew proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to help check the spread of coronavirus received a tremendous response across Karnataka.
The Chief Minister complimented and thanked people of the state for supporting the Prime Minister’s call.
Appealing to people in the cities not to travel to villages for the next 15 days to control outbreak in rural areas, Yediyurappa said a decision has also been taken to screen all domestic passengers henceforth at the airports.