'Nationwide Lockdown': Ambiguous PM's Speech Lead To Panic Buying Among Citizens
India has been placed under a strict lockdown for 21 days to ensure that people do not venture out amid the coronavirus outbreak.
"This is in effect a curfew across the nation. Nobody will be allowed to leave their houses starting tonight," PM Modi said while addressing the nation last night.
This announcement of a three-week curfew-like lockdown set off a frenzy amongst the citizens. In a mad rush, they crowded the grocery shops and medical stores trying to stock up essential items, reported The Indian Express.
Questions were raised on the government's assurance that essential goods and services will be available - especially because the Prime Minister mentioned that it would be a "curfew-like" situation.
"If you cross the Lakshman Rekha, you will invite the virus home," he added in his second address to the nation within a week.
"The Centre has allocated ₹15,000 crore for fighting coronavirus... We are taking all steps to ensure the continuous supply of essential commodities," the Prime Minister further added.
At the neighbourhood grocery stores, however, arguments broke out over bags of pulses and crates of eggs. Long queues were observed outside medical shops.
Anticipating the situation, PM Modi, in a series of tweets, tried to reassure the people.
My fellow citizens,— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 24, 2020
THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO NEED TO PANIC.
Essential commodities, medicines etc. would be available. Centre and various state governments will work in close coordination to ensure this.
Together, we will fight COVID-19 and create a healthier India.
By converging around shops, you are risking the spread of COVID-19.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 24, 2020
No panic buying please.
Please stay indoors.
I repeat- Centre and State Governments will ensure all essentials are available. https://t.co/bX00az1h7l
Panic Buying Across Nation
Earlier, Delhi had announced a lockdown, shops of even essential items in some areas had remained shut. Elsewhere, people were discouraged from venturing out of their homes by the police.
As of yesterday, the Delhi Police had filed 100 cases for violation of lockdown. Nearly 450 others were detailed.
In Mumbai, after the PM's speech, residents rushed out in throngs to stock up on foodgrains, snacks, milk, eggs, bread and cleaning material. Policemen used batons to enforce the ban on gatherings.
"I had to return home empty-handed because some policemen were beating people ahead of us," Pooja Gala, a working professional who went with her father to a grocery store near the Bhayander police station, was quoted as saying. In Juhu, people chased a vegetable cart, with the police right behind them.Kolkata Municipal Corporation officials had to intervene, to close the shops, ultimately power supply to the market had to be cut.
Huge crowds huddle around shops selling medicines, groceries, milk and vegetables, were spotted in Lucknow.
"I don't know if there will be arrangements for milk and other essentials. I have been to four shops, but none have milk," Ashish Singh (31), looking for milk for his children at a grocery shop in Nishatganj market, was quoted as saying.
Uttar Pradesh Additional Chief Secretary Awanish Awasthi said arrangements would be made for the supply of essential commodities to everyone at home. "A large number of vehicles will be employed," he added.
In Ahmedabad, there were crowds at the vegetable and grocery stores as well as Amul dairy parlours and petrol pumps.
"The rush is unbelievable. If we do not get supplies by tomorrow, we might have to shut down," an owner of a small provision store on the Vasna Bhayali Road in Vadodara was quoted as saying.
CM Vijay Rupani went on social media to assure that no supplies would run out. Assam also got a taste of panic buying of essential items throughout March 24.
Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said "difficult times" called for "difficult measures". In other states of the Northeast, officials said people had already prepared for the immediate next few days.
The Logical Indian Take
The PM in his address failed to clearly state how the government plans to keep providing essential commodities to its citizens during these trying times.
The ambiguity in his speech led to the panic buying that was witnessed all over India. As we deal a first of its kind pandemic in the age of social media, Indians are eagerly waiting for their leaders to step up and tell us exactly how they plan on navigating tough water.