Chennai: The state government has finally announced some relief measures as the people are gearing up for a lockdown till April 1, starting at 6 pm today. In his speech in the Assembly today, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami announced distribution of Rs 1000 to all the cardholders under the Public Distribution System (PDS) system. They can collect rice, dal, sugar and cooking oil designated for the month of April in advance. The announcement has come a little too late as panic has gripped the people who are worried about the availability of essential services.
Meanwhile, the number of positive cases of COVID-19 has risen to 15 in the state, with a patient from Madurai with no travel history testing positive. The fear of community spread has escalated as around 1,50,000 people left Chennai on Monday via public transport fearing loss of jobs.
PDS SHOPS TO SUPPLY FOOD GRAINS
The auto and construction workers registered with the welfare boards will receive an additional relief of Rs 1,000/. They will also get 15 kg of rice, one kg each of sugar and dal to meet their needs during the lockdown. The registered street vendors will be entitled to receive Rs 1000 and the workers of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act will receive wages for two extra days in addition to the days they have worked in March. However, maintaining social distancing at the PDS shops now has come as another challenge for the government.
The minor relief will help the public breathe a little easy although it has come a little too late. The amount of Rs 1000 may not suffice the needs of the people for one week. The cost of essential items, including vegetables has increased in many markets. The government has assured availability of the essential service during the lockdown, but the panic-stricken people have been thronging the markets and grocery shops.
PEOPLE STOCK ESSENTIAL ITEMS
The Koyambedu market saw people in large numbers rushing to buy vegetables on Tuesday morning. Even though a large number of people were seen wearing masks, the social distancing norms were violated. There are around 3,000 shops and a few hundred street vendors selling vegetables and fruits in the market. Because of the huge crowd, traffic came to a halt between 6 am and 8 am today. The cost of the commodities were fluctuating in the market as the cost of certain items increased drastically while that of the other few reduced. The rush in the grocery shops was no different either.
The people were only trickling in on Saturday prior to the ‘Janata Curfew’, but the urgency to hoard goods was visible on Tuesday. With the sparsity of the masks and sanitisers, people were seen purchasing these items in large quantities.
AROUND 2 LAKH PEOPLE USE PUBLIC TRANSPORT
Owing to the panic, around 1,50,000 people left Chennai fearing loss of livelihood. Fewer government buses were operational on Monday, which led to a commotion in the Koyambedu bus terminus. People were seen fighting to board the buses while the police and the transport officials became spectators. A similar situation prevailed in other major cities. Another 50,000 people, mostly daily wage workers, reportedly left the state capital on Tuesday morning. In this context, the threat of community spread looms large.
The government has announced screening of the passengers at the bus terminus of different districts, but the large inflow is set to make the process a challenging one. The government has roped in private hospitals including Christian Medical College, Vellore, Apollo Hospitals among others to quarantine and treat the patients. The stringent monitoring of the movement of the people and ensuring availability of the essential goods would be mammoth tasks in front of the government now.