Mumbai, March 25 (IANS) Amid panic reactions in Maharashtra as the 2-day-long national lockdown began, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray assured the people of the state that the state had sufficient foodstocks.
Food & Civil Supplies Minister Chhagan Bhujbal said later that the state had enough buffer stock of foodgrains for the next six months.
The assurances came after the late-night mad scramble by people all over the state, especially in urban centres, to go and replenish home stocks as a 21-day lockdown was clamped from midnight.
Even on Wednesday, many anxious citizens ventured out to buy essentials, but most returned disappointed from shops or markets as items were out of stock.
Bhujbal also warned of stringent action of upto seven years’ jail against anybody found hoarding or blackmarketing foodstuffs of daily use, besides streamlining the movement of essential goods and agro-produce to prevent shortages.
In an address over social media, Thackeray said: “We have sufficient stocks of all essentials like vegetables, rice, grain and other items of daily use, and all shops selling these are also open.”
Attempting to lighten public mood, the CM added a dollop of humour to bring smiles to the gloomy and isolated audiences.
“People ask me what I am doing during this lockdow. I reply: ‘I listen to Mrs. CM’ My advice, you also listen to your home minister (spouse),” Thackeray said, reiterating the need to always remain indoors for the next three weeks.
Terming the Covid-19 pandemic a “war-like situation”, he warned that in this, “we are not aware of the enemy, but it (Coronavirus) will attack us, so we must be doubly vigilant”.
In a silver lining to the ongoing pandemic, four Covid-19 patients – two in Pune and one each in Mumbai and Auranagabad – who have fully recovered were discharged.
A team of doctors and others gave a warm send-off to the Pune couple – the state’s maiden cases found positive after a trip to Dubai, besides one patient each from Mumbai and Aurangabad, with 10 others on the verge of discharge shortly.
With the addition of 15 positive cases taking the state’s toll to 122, the coronavirus has spread to around a dozen districts – one-third of the state’s total – since the past couple of weeks.
They include: Mumbai with 48 positive cases and 4 deaths till date, Pune 41, Thane 16, Sangli 9, Nagpur and Yavatmal 4 each, besides patients in Ahmednagar, Satara, Raigad, Palghar, Aurangabad and Ratnagiri.
As many as 14,502 are presently in home quarantine and another 932 are in institutional quarantine around the state.
Public Works Minister Ashok Chavan said his department has kept ready more than 22,000 rooms in government guest houses where around 55,000 isolation beds can be prepared to keep in quarantine.
Meanwhile, on Maharashtra’s New Year, Gudi Padva, many state leaders like Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, state Congress President Balasaheb Thorat and others celebrated at home.
A visibly cheerful Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar was seen engaged in a game of chess with his grandchildren, but it was not known who was ‘check-mated’.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: [email protected])