Pune: Long queues of health workers were seen at bus stands as Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML) buses go off roads as part of stricter curbs and 6 pm to 6 am curfew imposed by the Pune district administration for seven days beginning April 3. The first day of what many believed as “mini-lockdown” on Saturday also saw deserted roads during evening and shutters of cinema halls and restaurants down at many places across the city.
The administration, however, has decided against imposing complete lockdown similar to last year even as Covid positive cases are rising sharply in Pune.
During the morning hours at Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) headquarters bus stop, there was a long queue of health workers from various hospitals planning to return home after completing the night duty. At Swargate bus stop too, there was crowd waiting for the public transport utility buses.
“I came from Kolhapur in the morning and was waiting for PMPML bus to go to Pimpri. However, upon arrival I got to know that PMPML has suspended its service as part of fresh curbs,” said Vilas Sontakke, an engineering student.
At Swargate state transport bus stand, there was more than usual rush with many seen leaving for hometown. “I was planning to return home in June for a few days. However, I had to advance the plan as it seems there will be lockdown again. The restaurant where I was working is closed for a few days,” said Nagesh Uttargi, a Hubli resident working as waiter in one of the restaurants.
By evening, some roads in the city witnessed heavy traffic as people were rushing home before the 6pm curfew deadline came into effect. At DP road near Rajaram bridge, there was heavy rush of people scrambling to return home before the curfew was imposed. Post 6pm, police vans were seen roaming around in many parts of the city asking shops to down shutters.
At some places, there was chaos with people rushing to grocery stores during evening when the curfew came into effect. Some grocery shop owners too returned to the old practice with customers standing outside in designated box painted by shop owners.
Wholesale stores in Market yard were also seen serving many customers, more than the usual numbers, as the chief minister in his address to state on Friday evening warned of complete lockdown in the coming days.
At Market yard, many godowns were seen piling products, with goods being unloaded and families making a beeline to stock up groceries for the coming weeks.
“With the announcement of curfew, we decided to stock for at least a month unlike last time when it was difficult to source things,” a resident said.
DMart at Satara road as well as Aundh and Baner also witnessed long queues of shoppers and the staff were assisting people in maintaining social distancing.
Many cloud kitchens were also facing problems. “Cloud kitchens which are allowed to do delivery of food are being asked to put down shutters at 12 noon only when the order says 6 pm onwards, while delivery is allowed through online delivery channels,” said Renuka Agarwal, who runs a kitchen in Dhanori.
Impulse shopping has made people rush to shops and malls as many were seen buying vegetables and essentials for a month.
Rahul S waited in a queue to get essentials for his baby daughter. “I want to make sure we have enough of the necessary baby things during this period,” he said.
This time though there were hardly any queue outside liquor shops. “The curfew announcement has hit us bad too, for we have to shut shop by 6 pm. Though towards closing time we get some regular buyers, but it seems that people are abstaining from drinking,” said Raju Bhagya of GSP Wines.
Restore PMPML service: BJP
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) staged an agitation on Saturday with leaders Pune MP Girish Bapat and city unit chief Jagdish Mulik demanding restoration of PMPML bus service. “Government does not realise that by suspending PMPML bus service, many workers who travel to the city from far-off areas will face inconvenience. We have submitted a memorandum to Pune divisional commissioner Saurabh Rao to restore the public transport utility service,” Bapat said.
With inputs from Prachi Bari