With Karnataka tweaking its order to enforce night curfew till May 4 on Thursday, Karnataka Police swooped across the state to forcefully shut down shops which are not dealing with essential services including bakeries and fruit juice shops.
Chief Secretary P. Ravi Kumar on Wednesday night had issued guidelines on enforcing night curfew and weekend curfew, but on Thursday again, it was tweaked to include a sentence that stated shops and establishments other than those listed in the order will remain closed.
According to shopkeepers, this “ambiguous sentence” has given sweeping powers to policemen, who are acting in a high-handed manner and closing down shutters of bakeries and fruit juice shops as well, while last year, these shops were allowed to carry out their businesses normally.
In the capital’s Yelahanka suburb, the police made bookshops, jewellery shops, novelty and gift centres, tool shops, hardware shops, textile shops, hosiery shops and even bakeries shut down.
Srinivasalu, owner of Sri Venkateshwara bakery in Yelahanka, told IANS that he was surprised when police asked him to shut his shop. “Last time my shop was allowed to function but this time they asked me to shut my shop too without prior intimation. I had invested heavily on producing biscuits, toasts and bread, keeping a long weekend curfew in mind. Now all of a sudden, police have come down forcefully shut my shop,” he rued.
Fruit juice shop owner, Narayan told IANS that he did not foresee such a closure. “I wonder whether this is a lockdown or just a curfew as the government puts it. The police action has put me at a loss, I had purchased a large quantity of fruits thinking of the long weekend. Going by the police action, it appears that this is going to be another round of forced lockdown,” he said.
In Yelahanka, a grocery shop owner, on the condition of anonymity, said that he had been asked to open his shop only for four to five hours in morning from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. and close his shop for the rest of the day. “How can we survive with this kind of forced shutdown,” the shopkeeper rued.
Even traders in Bengaluru’s biggest wholesale market in Chickpet and Shivajinagar had complained in a similar manner alleging that the police is unrelenting and forcefully asking cloth traders to shut their shops. “This being month Ramazan and one of the biggest festivals, cloth sales go up. Last year too, we did not have a good business and this year, if the same continues, we will be ruined,” a cloth merchant from Chickpet told news channels.
A policeman in Hoysala who was making announcements, told IANS that he does not know anything but he was complying orders from his higher-ups. “I don’t know anything, my senior officer told me to ensure shops are shut before evening… I am busy following those orders,” he said.
According to the new guidelines, shops, including ration shops (PDS), dealing with food, groceries, fruits and vegetables, dairy and milk booths, meat and fish, animal fodder are permitted.
It also says that restaurants, liquor shops and bars can only do take-aways.
All food processing and related industries, banks, insurance offices, ATMs, cold storage and warehousing services, construction material shops and delivery of all items through e-commerce is permitted. The order also says that barber shops, salons and beauty parlours can function adhering to Covid-19 restrictions.
The order says that all industries, industrial establishments and production units can also function adhering to restrictions. Private offices have been asked to work with minimum staff, while 50 percent staff is allowed in government offices. Since the order clearly says that all other shops and commercial establishments other than the list mentioned above are not allowed, police have started shutting them down.
A video from Raichur which is circulating on social media shows the District Collector and the police ushering people on to the roads and asking them to shutter their establishments, if they did not fall under the essential items category. This means that non-essential shops like footwear, mobile, hardware, clothes etc will not be allowed to function till May 4.
Strongly defending the government’s moves, BJP national General Secretary, C. T. Ravi told reporters that tough times like these demand tough actions. “The government can not keep on changing its decisions like it did fortnight ago, when film stars came in hordes and demanded to allow theatres to run in full capacity. People are dying, we do not place to cremate people at least, now people should stop talking about the economy,” he said.
The government has not restricted movement of citizens, but has said that unnecessary travel in private vehicles should be avoided.
According to sources, the police have cracked down on commercial establishments in Bengaluru, Hubballi, Belagavi, Tumakuru, Mysuru, among other districts.
Two police officers on the condition of anonymity spoke to IANS confirmed that they were shutting down non-essential shops as the order mandated so. In districts like Shivamogga, shopkeepers were told to shut their establishments by 3.30 p.m.