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Assam police helplines for stranded get clogged

Residents allege scarcity of vegetables

By TT Bureau in Guwahati
  • Published 1.04.20, 12:24 AM
  • Updated 1.04.20, 3:24 AM
  • 3 mins read
  •  
Policemen distribute grocery items to a villager in Boko in Assam’s Kamrup district on Tuesday. Picture by UB Photos

Assam police received around 16,000 messages within 24 hours of opening its helpline numbers for those stranded outside the state following the 21-day nationwide lockdown from March 24 midnight to control the spread of novel coronavirus.

While over 95 per cent messages were from people seeking help for their return to Assam, a few were frivolous in nature, thus clogging the helplines. Police had released the helpline numbers on Sunday. The police, however, asked them to remain calm and stay where they are and take the local government’s help as the Centre had banned inter-state travel as a precautionary measure against the spread of the virus.

Assam police on Tuesday published dedicated statewise helpline numbers for people stranded in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and others.

The police also requested residents not to make unnecessary or fake calls to the helpline numbers. “We request citizens to use these helpline numbers responsibly so it enables us to serve all those stuck in emergencies in the best possible manner. Please help us to help you,” an officer in the state police headquarters said.

The police on Tuesday also asked people to refrain from sharing Covid-19-related April Fool’s Day pranks and messages.

Meanwhile, police continued its crackdown upon lockdown violators. Till 9am on Tuesday, 448 people had been arrested in connection with 237 cases, 2,013 vehicles seized and fines amounting to Rs 7.31 lakh realised.

On the other hand, people continued to allege that grocery shops were hoarding vegetables and selling them at exorbitant rates. Scarcity of vegetables in the city was evident as the Kamrup (metro) has cancelled its earlier order of selling vegetables in every ward. Cabbage was sold at Rs 40 per kg, tomatoes at Rs 45 and ridge gourd at Rs 40, among others.

Kamrup (metro) deputy commissioner Biswajit Pegu told The Telegraph that the previous order to deliver vegetables in every ward was cancelled and they have allowed online delivery of vegetables. “We will take strict action if anyone hoards. If we conduct a search, the vendors flee. Online delivery has been allowed as we want to avoid crowding,” he said. However, the online delivery system too seems to have collapsed with the unavailability of supply.

On Tuesday, chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal said, “I have asked the chief secretary to make arrangements of supply of essential commodities in every district. All deputy commissioners have been directed to ensure supply of essential items to residents without any hassle so that they can adhere to the lockdown order completely and we can win over the virus.”

The agriculture and veterinary department on Tuesday set up a control room and a health centre for farmers and livestock producers. The department also asked the district authorities to ensure the sale of agricultural produce of local farmers through a proper mechanism.

Sonowal visited lower Assam’s Kokrajhar and Dhubri districts on Tuesday to inspect the preparedness at hospitals.

He reviewed the preparations at Rupnath Brahma civil hospital in Kokrajhar, where 28 isolation beds have been set up along with five intensive care units. He also inspected the Dhubri civil hospital. He directed the deputy commissioner and police in Dhubri to trace those who participated in the religious congregation in New Delhi and conduct screening and quarantine them immediately. Around 81 people from Dhubri reportedly attended the event.

The day also saw the arrival of over 150 nurses at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital following an order from the office of the mission director of National Health Mission, Assam, to undergo intensive training on Covid-19 treatment. Some of the nurses, however, complained of poor accommodation. “We are ready to render service any time. We are ready to face hardship but the way we are staying here negates the idea of social distancing,” a nurse said, claiming that six to seven of them were put in a single room.

Pat for cop action: Residents of Upper Assam’s Golaghat district have welcomed the lockdown regulations and called for strict action by the police against the violators.

Two cases have been registered against lockdown violators at Golaghat and Merapani police stations and four persons detained. The police have seized 114 two-wheelers and 10 vehicles till Tuesday.

However, those out to buy grocery, medicines and other essential items were not stopped by the police.

Golaghat superintendent of police Pushpraj Singh said they had to be strict to make the lockdown a success.

“It is sad to see people making excuses just to buy liquor or pan masala. We were strict to send a strong message. Otherwise, it is almost impossible to make them understand,” he said.

Retired assistant headmaster of Garmarah High School, Biren Ch. Saikia, said: “The police are doing their duty without caring for their lives and families. So we must encourage them,” he said.

Additional reporting by Sanjoy Hazarika in Bokakhat