An 11-day complete lockdown, imposed in the wake of a state-wide COVID 19 surge on an unprecedented scale, got underway on Wednesday in Bihar where the authorities had a tough time ensuring compliance from people.
Police personnel had begun patrolling the streets since early in the morning, anticipating heavy rush and overcrowding between 7 A.M. and 11 A.M., the four-hour period during which shops selling vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, and grocery items have been allowed to do business.
Owners of many shops, not dealing in items deemed as essentials, faced a rude shock as they were made to down their shutters, besides being slapped with fines, by the men in uniform.
The policemen were also seen striking their canes against the ground at many places to scare away and disperse people who had come out to make purchases and gathered at shops or around hand-pulled vegetable and fruit carts throwing physical distancing norms to the winds.
Many motorcycle-borne youths, loitering around to enjoy high-speed rides on the deserted streets, tried to brazen it out when stopped by police personnel whom they told with a sheepish grin that they had come out for “hawakhori” (breath of fresh air).
Some of them ended up being fined and even their vehicles being impounded. The luckier ones were let off after being made to undergo, in public, the humiliation of doing squats with their hands grabbing their earlobes.
Some of the businessmen and residents, whose behaviour was deemed to be recalcitrant, also ended up being arrested.
The number of arrests made, vehicles seized and amount of money recovered by way of fines is likely to be provided by the state police headquarters by the evening.
The lockdown from May 5 to 15 was announced by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday on his official Twitter handle, a day after the Patna High Court pressed the panic button and told his government that it will have to pass a judicial order if the state failed to show the resolve to impose restrictions necessitated by the raging “second wave” that has wrought huge devastation across the country.
Meanwhile, many people complained of alleged high- handedness by the authorities in enforcing the lockdown and claimed that the guidelines issued by the state home department have left plenty of room for ambiguity.
“We are in the restaurant business. In the morning some police personnel came and ordered us to down our shutters. The guidelines say we can do home delivery of food from 9 A.M. to 9 P.M. but in the same breath, they add that restaurants have to remain closed.
‘Why could they not be more specific and make it clear that our kitchens be allowed to function and our delivery boys be allowed to perform their jobs”, said a Boring Road resident who did not wish to be named.
A male nurse, residing in Sipara locality who visits Shri Krishna Nagar, about five kilometres away, to attend to an elderly patient, said, “it is not clear whether or not auto rickshaws are allowed to ply. During my commute today, I could see the driver of the three-wheeler I rode paying bribes to constables at three places.
“The burden fell on my shoulders, finally. The autorickshaw driver insisted that I cough up Rs 50 for my daily commute which costs less than half of that. I had to do as he said. But how are we going to survive in this manner? We have limited means”, he said.