Roads deserted on Bengal lockdown’s first day as police keep vigil

Police in West Bengal were on the alert on the first day of the statewide lockdown on Sunday and actively enforcing the bar on any unauthorised movement. While there were some breaches of the restrictions, the streets in Kolkata and around the state were largely deserted.

The state imposed a near total lockdown condition in the state, giving a window of three hours — 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. — for shops to operate and people to buy essentials.

A handful of people were seen waiting for their turn outside grocery shops in the morning, while some queued up next to vegetable and fish stalls at local market places early in the day.

However, in several markets in the city and its outskirts, such as Hatibagan, Gariahat and Sodpur, customers did not maintain physical distance and many vendors were spotted without masks.

Some hawkers who had their shops open beyond 10 a.m. were forced to close down by the police. Sukumar Saha, a fish vendor in Kakdwip area of South 24 Parganas, said: “The government could have imposed a total shutdown on market-places. This three-hour window is more of a hassle. Just when the business was at its peak, we were told to shut down.”

Some markets like that in Maniktala, Lake Town, Hatibagan in Kolkata and in Asansol, Durgapur and Purulia, tried to continue with their business beyond the stipulated time but police closed the market forcefully and, in some cases, arranged for some unique punishment for breaking rules. In Purulia, police asked the violators to shut their shops and do ten sit-ups in front of the police before allowing them to go.

A senior police officer said necessary measures were being taken to generate awareness on the lockdown norms, and action would be taken against those violating the rules.

As the government has imposed a strict suspension of public transport and private vehicles were only allowed with proper reason, there were hardly any vehicles seen on the road. Police, however, took details of the few private vehicles that plied on the road. “If they failed to give a proper reason, then they were either told to go back and, in some cases, we have seized the vehicle,” a senior Kolkata police officer on duty told IANS. So far, Kolkata police have arrested 23 people and lodged cases against them under the Disaster Management Act, while 59 vehicles have ben seized.

As the Metro services in the city were suspended, several frontline workers complained that they had difficulty reaching their place of work.

“I and my colleague got late to work, as he had to take a detour and pick me up from home,” a nurse working in a private hospital said.