Pune: Long queues sans social distancing outside grocery and meat shops were seen on Sunday (July 19) the exceptional 'free day' given by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) for citizens after a 5-day stint of strict lockdown to buy essential items without crowding. Fuel pumps also saw a huge rush from early morning with most customers requesting fuel station employees to fill their vehicle tank.
Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad cities are under strict lockdown from July 14 to July 23. The first phase (July 14 to July 18) was kept strict with only milk and medical shops being allowed other than hospitals and other medical emergency services. The second phase which was supposed to give some relaxation regarding the vegetable, grocery, meat shops and e-commerce services to function from 8 am to 12 noon begins from Sunday (July 19) to Thursday (July 23).
Anticipating the heavy rush to buy and stock essential items, the administration had given a bit more relaxation only on Sunday allowing essential commodities shops to remain open from 8am to 6pm. Punekars were wary about the administration's arbitrary decision-making and preferred to rush out on Sunday morning for their essential buying.
So after a five-day break, there was a rush on the roads and huge crowds outside shops with social distancing going for a toss. Vegetable and fruit vendors also cashed in on the panic buying by customers by charging exorbitantly. Many also complained that the prices of essential commodites had gone up and requested the administration to look into the matter.
Sunday also witnessed a huge crowd outside meat shops, as the shops for chicken, mutton and fish were also allowed to run from 8 am to 6 pm.
Traffic on the road was unusually high as people resorted to shopping though the PMC has announced the essential items will be available from Monday from 8 am to 12 pm. Ganesh Ingle, a resident of Karvenagar said, "People are stocking all items on Sunday itself as we don't know whether the administration will extend the lockdown further."
Even though fuel is allowed to be sold to customers engaged in essential and exempted services, Sunday saw huge queues at fuel stations. Fuel stations employees were finding it difficult to check identity cards of people as the queues outside became longer.
Meanwhile, Pune police were keeping a strict eye on those violating the rules of the lockdown. Police also took a stringent action on those who flouted traffic as well as booked those who were travelling without the mandatory travel permission e-pass.
A 10-day strict shutdown was announced for Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad and some parts of rural Pune in two phases amid the rising cases of coronavirus.