Under lockdown for 5 days, Goa struggles to get essential goods

Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had extended the Sunday Janta Curfew to Monday, leaving no relief period for people to stock necessary items. (File photo)

Goa entered the fifth consecutive day of its total mandated curfew on Thursday with the non-availability of essential goods and groceries. The state administration's ill-preparedness stood exposed as it failed to put a mechanism in place, with a short-staffed police force pushing limits to ensure people do not cross the curfew lines.

By afternoon, a letter petition was filed before the Bombay High Court in Goa pleading intervention on “account of a scarcity of essential commodities and lack of organisation to provide basic food supply to daily wage workers, the below poverty line citizens.” The petition, filed by advocate Rohit Bras D'Sa was admitted by Justice M S Sonak and will be heard on March 27.

Throughout the day several Opposition leaders and Goans were also seen trying to get the state government to adhere to Centre's curfew rules, which allow for grocery and essential services to remain open.

Chief Minister Pramod Sawant who earlier had admitted to having reacted late to the situation, extended the Sunday Janta Curfew to Monday, leaving no relief period for people to stock their kitchen and other medical necessities, unlike other states. On Wednesday, till mid-night, the social media was filled with pleas and appeals for food for senior citizens, and households with children and pets by agitated Goans.

“People are struggling to find even basic goods to sustain themselves in these days of curfew. The villages in Goa also do not have the logistics, manpower in place to deliver grocery door to door to the people. Therefore the undersigned moves this Court, for a direction to the state government to place on an affidavit all measures being taken to take care of the persons who are daily wage workers, citizens below the poverty line and the common man,” the petition says.

"There was a hearing today and Justice Mahesh Sonak has directed the state Advocate General to place on the record the government's management plan (for providing essential commodities) on record on Friday," advocate and petitioner Rohit Bras D'Sa told reporters.

Since Monday, grocery shop owners who have tried to open their shutters were stopped and allegedly beaten by police personnel in some cases. The state also is planning for curfew passes to be issued through the collector office making it mandatory for anyone stepping out to have them.

While there was no official announcement — forwards showing permission given to shops for home delivery kept doing the rounds, even as people started calling the COVID-19 emergency helpline number to place grocery orders.

“We had to call the governor office in the morning and ask him to intervene as the government is still not giving any assurance or making known any plans. I personally find this all unnecessary complication of a matter which other states seemed to have managed very well with social distancing measures put in place. We are not against the lockdown but the Home Ministry guidelines clearly say what is exempt, what is allowed and we need to follow that. Since morning we are also getting calls on infants and senior citizens the most affected, for even basics amenities like milk. This is not a question of luxury but necessity,” Opposition leader and former Chief Minister Digambar Kamat said.“If not handled well this will become a law and order situation in no time.” he added.

Author Damodar Mauzo who lives in Majorda expressed similar concerns and said, “Grocery stores in Goa are also where people go and pick everything, every day. This is not like big cities where people stock. And the village networks are such that the shopping pattern is not like malls and such others. The lockdown is essential but in every village, timings can be put in place and social distancing measures can be engaged. Nothing has been done. Further, we don’t have a single government-operated milk shop anywhere in or village or vicinity. So many families are suffering. This has no logic.”

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