Panaji, March 27 (IANS) Chaos reigned on the streets of Goa on Friday after chief minister Pramod Sawant decided to open grocery stores, a decision he said taken “under duress”.

Thousands of people thronged the streets from as early as 5 a.m. to scout for essential goods like rice, wheat flour, milk, oil and vegetables and mobbed grocers and other vendors paying scant attention to the social distancing norms, with the police, though deployed across the state, not enforcing the regulations, which are essential to prevent the spread of the virus.

The Opposition has now accused Chief Minister of lording over a total collapse in administration and abetting public chaos.

Earlier on Friday, the availability of essential food supplies in most stores across Goa dried up in the first few hours itself, on account of the rush of local buyers, who have been under lockdown since March 22. Goa had originally extended the one-day janata curfew by more three days, before seamlessly slipping into the 21-day curfew mode, with just a four hour relaxation window on March 23.

“There were no dry essential goods available by 6 a.m. itself. Some stores were open, but there was such chaos and panic buying that we opted not to venture out for safety reasons,” Engelbert D’Mello, a finance professional and a resident of Bastora village in North Goa said.

Panic buying and violation of social distancing norms were also evident in major cities like Panaji, Mapusa, etc. Police, who have been criticized by civil society and the opposition in Goa for using excessive force and beating up people in order to enforce Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 21-day curfew over the last few days, were not involved in the enforcement of social distancing guidelines.

Sawant, who has been slammed by not just the civil society and opposition, but from his own party members over his decision-making related to the COVID-19 virus crisis, in a video message on Thursday had said, that his government should not be blamed for an increase in coronavirus spread, now that he was “forced to” open grocery stores under duress.

“We cannot say when and how the coronavirus can be transmitted. Therefore we should take care of ourselves. If tomorrow, coronavirus spreads in a big way in Goa, then you cannot blame the government,” Sawant had said in his public message on Thursday.

“Government wanted a 100 per cent lockdown. The government did not want unnecessary contact because it could lead to the spread of the virus,” the Chief Minister also said, adding that he was under duress to take a decision “due to complaints from many quarters”.

The Opposition has now said that blaming people for his poor decision and abdication of responsibility is a sign of bad governance.

“No need of GOVERNMENT if people were expected to resolve all issues themselves. It’s complete collapse of administration in Goa under @goacm which he admitted by blaming people,” state Congress president Girish Chodankar tweeted on Friday.




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