Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, March 26
Essential items were not delivered at the doorstep in Punjab and people across the state were left scrambling for medicines and vegetables.
Contrary to the claims of the Amritsar administration, essential items like milk, vegetables and medicines could not be delivered at the doorstep.
Chemists, who were designated by the Office of the Deputy Commissioner, for home delivery of medicines, failed to respond when contacted on their phone numbers.
The numbers of chemists provided to cater the Mall road, Taylor Road, Lawrence Road for medicines were either found to be defunct or busy.
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Thursday announced immediate distribution of 10 lakh packets of dry rations to daily wagers and unorganised labourers in the state to help them through the contingency situation triggered by the curfew imposed in light of the COVID-19 crisis.
The packets, containing 10 kg atta, 2 kg dal and 2 kg of sugar each, would be distributed in the slums and other pockets where such daily wagers and labourers are staying in large numbers, an official spokesperson said.
The chief minister also ordered these packets to be made available at the offices of the deputy commissioners to support any such persons who do not get covered in the door-to-door distribution and may call the helpline numbers for food.
Health officials justified it by saying that the chemists remained overburdened and their phones kept busy as they were overburdened. They claim that the number of chemists would be increased.
The scenario was dismal when it came to vegetable suppliers. The contact number of vegetable vendors were either switched off or they did not respond to calls.
Police too appeared to be insensitive to people’s requirement. Majority of the milkmen were refused access to the urban areas to distribute milk, even though the administration had allowed them between 5 am and 8 am. Similarly, the milk collection centres of Verka in villages were not allowed to operate. Farmers have no choice to make khoya or Desi ghee at their places.
In the absence of a wholesale market, the retailers were out of stock, be it groceries, vegetables or medicines.
However, grocery stores in Khandwala and Chheharta areas said that they would be able to start home deliveries only after they have the requisite stock. Several homes in Dashmesh Avenue and Shori Nagar were left in the lurch for essential commodities.
In Putlighar area, grocery shop owners said they were yet to get authority passes to operate and serve the people. They claim that they were trying to persuade administrative officials to do the needful but in vain.
As per the orders of relaxation, the bank branches were supposed to operate between 11 am and 2 pm, though with a skeleton staff, and the ATMs were to open from 8 am to 8 pm—till the time banks were closed.
The scenario was identical in Tarn Taran. The SDM claimed that milk, milk products and so many other eatables were being provided to the residents but the residents of Mohindra enclave said not even a single vehicle approached their locality.
Gurpreet Singh of Noordi village said that just LPG cylinders were provided whereas vegetables and grocery items were out of reach. Private health services kept their shutters down. There was no home delivery of medicine.
In Ludhiana, claims of the district administration of home delivery of essential commodities seemed to be falling flat as residents complained that they are not getting medicines, milk and grocery for their daily needs.
There are reports that milk agencies/companies have not ensured the supply of milk/milk products.
Grocery merchants who had been given permits by MC for home delivery also remained more or less inaccessible. Most of the phone numbers of such shops were either switched off or not reachable. Besides, several chemists could not make the required arrangements for the delivery of medicines at doorsteps.
A chemist, on the condition of anonymity, said their pharmacies name has been included in the list without their consent.
“Our store is located in a hospital and it is closed for 2-3 days and we have yet to make arrangements as per the instructions given by the district administration. Our store boys are still not ready to deliver medicines at doorsteps. Our pharmacy name was mentioned in the list without any consent. However, we will make all possible efforts to start delivery of medicines at the earliest”, he said.
Another chemist in the city said there is no stock of medicines and they can’t ensure the supply of medicines as even Pindi street market, a wholesale market, is closed.
Some residents also complained that the contact numbers of the chemists were not reachable or wrong numbers had been provided.
Ram Hari Meena said: “I am not running any department store. I have been receiving a lot of wrong phone calls since yesterday. The people are dialling my mobile number to contact Gurjeet Singh of a departmental store in Jawahar Nagar Ludhiana. I don’t know who is Gurjeet Singh. They displayed my number instead of the departmental store number. It is sheer harassment for me. I appeal to the authorities concerned to display the correct number.”
In Patiala, residents thronged markets early in the morning. At the Rajpura vegetable market, hundreds of people were seen purchasing vegetables. Residents were resorting to panic-buying in the city.
Vendors sold vegetables from vehicles parked along the road in many localities including the Arya Samaj area and Sanauri gate.
Potato, otherwise available at Rs 20 per kg, was being sold at Rs 50 per kg, a bunch of coriander leaves, otherwise sold at a marginal rate, also fetched Rs 50. A household on the stadium road, which was selling vegetables spread across the house’s lawn, at low prices, was raided by the police.
“We are selling the commodities at justified rates. People are doing sewa (service) as well,” the woman selling the items said.
People ventured out even though Deputy Commissioner Kumar Amit on Wednesday released a list of grocery and chemist shops that were going to provide door-to-door delivery.
However, residents claimed that things were in disarray and supply of essential items in the last 24 hours was not sufficient.
The Muktar district administration allowed all medical stores till noon with condition that not more than five persons would gather at the place. It has given major ease to residents who were facing hardships in getting regular medicines. Notably, just two medical stores were allowed to open each in Muktsar, Malout and Gidderbaha towns yesterday.
Similarly, the administration issued curfew passes to some vegetable vendors for door-to-door delivery at controlled prices. Milk was supplied until 9 am.
However, this relaxation has led to the crowd on roads. Some residents even said that the relaxation might prove "disastrous".
Meanwhile, the administration, in an attempt to ensure the supply of essential goods in villages, has authorised sarpanches to buy goods from shops in towns and supply it to the retail shops in villages. The sarpanches would get curfew passes from the concerned SDMs. The shops in villages would open from 4 pm to 6 pm.
Gas cylinders would be supplied from 2 pm to 5 pm.
The grocery shops would open from 4 pm to 6 pm. As per the district magistrate's order, grocery items would be supplied door-to-door by the shopkeepers and no one would be allowed to visit the shops.
Even though two were released by the Jalandhar district administration – one on Wednesday and another on Thursday – of milk vendors, chemists and vegetable vendors – shortage of essential commodities persisted in the city.
While the action was taken against a major medical shop in Jalandhar for opening the shop yesterday, retailers in Jalandhar complain that there is a severe shortage of essential medicines in the market. Chemists are largely running short on stocks of medicines relating to Diabetes and Blood Pressure. There is also a shortage of insulin. Many of the numbers in the list provided by the district administration are not being answered. Due to shortage of stocks – some chemists also said they are forced to close shops as customers fight when not provided essential medicines.
With reports of hoarding of both medicines and vegetables - prices have also shot up.
Even though the police and drug department also taking steps to ensure delivery of meds and vegetables in several areas - a large number of areas in the city are suffering due to unavailability of stock or unresponsive numbers.
Some chemists also said some of the numbers on the government list were scrambled up.
Divya, a resident of Wadala Chowk area said she tried many chemists since morning on the list but none responded.
A chemist on the Nakodar Road area, said, “I opened my shop for several hours but had to close it after customers picked up a fight for not getting medicines. The stock was updated a day before the curfew since then, the majority of the meds have been sold out. We are not getting stocks ourselves. Customers crowd the shops. What can we do.”
Meanwhile, chemists also said there was a serious shortage of milk powder due to which many mothers were facing a very hard time in feeding toddlers. Chemists have been flooded with calls for dry milk.
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