Chaos outside wine shops, 73 more to open today

Long queues outside liquor shops at Battal Ballian in Udhampur (left) and BC Road in Jammu (right) on Thursday. -Excelsior pics by K Kumar & Rakesh.
Long queues outside liquor shops at Battal Ballian in Udhampur (left) and BC Road in Jammu (right) on Thursday. -Excelsior pics by K Kumar & Rakesh.

Business resumes in half of Jammu region

8 more test COVID +ve, 3 recover

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, May 21: Life was back to near normal in almost half of the Jammu region with business activity resuming in four more districts including Udhampur, Reasi, Rajouri and Doda today and set to recommence in Poonch from tomorrow, two days after shops were opened in Jammu district as lockdown 4.0 began on May 20 with several relaxations to boost economic and industrial activity which had been stalled for past about two months due to Coronavirus pandemic even as utter chaos prevailed outside selected 40 wine shops which were opened by the Excise Department leading to long queues running into kilometer at some places and violation of social distancing outside many shops.

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The J&K Government said that they have brought 83334 stranded persons of the Union Territory from different parts of the country as well as abroad in special trains, buses and flights even as eight more Corona positive cases were today reported from different parts of Jammu region while three Corona patients of Kathua district were treated and discharged.

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Reports received from different district headquarters said life virtually limped back to normalcy after nearly two-month lockdown in Udhampur, Reasi and Rajouri districts with shops opening and private transport with restricted strength moving on the roads bringing smiles back on the faces of traders, who have suffered heavy losses, as well as the common man, who was able to get items of their choice from the markets.
As the Excise Department allowed opening of only 40 selected liquor shops in Jammu, long queues were seen outside all shops right from the morning as they were shut for past two months. In the order for opening of 40 shops, the Excise Department described them as standalone shops but police countered the claim saying some of the shops were at the market places.

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Open violation of social distancing was witnessed outside many shops as people jostled with each other to get the liquor after two months. The boozers were not worried about Coronavirus pandemic as some of them were not wearing even masks and violated norms of social distancing openly prompting police to intervene to keep distance in the queues.
However, police managed to get norms of social distancing implemented after sometime by deploying Flying Squads outside the liquor shops.
A senior police officer confirmed to the Excelsior that they had no prior information of opening of shops today. “Concerned police stations got to know about opening of shops from the shopkeepers when people in large numbers started gathering outside the shops,” he said, adding immediately deployments were rushed and social distancing was maintained outside most of the shops. He admitted that outside some shops there was no social distancing for sometime till arrival of the cops.
Police had a tough time during the day controlling the crowds outside wine shops. Police said opening of limited wine shops led to long queues and if the Excise Department had opened all shops, there wouldn’t have been so much rush for purchase of liquor. Some of the shops went out of stock much before 5 pm, the scheduled time of closure.
Though the Excise Department claimed that only standalone shops had been allowed to open today, police said some shops were not standalone and something definitely went wrong with the Excise Department which didn’t realize gravity of the Coronavirus situation.
Moreover, there was no mention of opening of standalone shops of liquor only in the UT Government order issued for lockdown 4.0 on May 19.
Meanwhile, Excise Commissioner Rajesh Kumar Shavan today allowed opening of 73 more shops in the Union Territory.
In an order issued today, Shavan said his office had first identified around 40 shops shown as standalone across UT and they were opened today. Barring few places in Jammu, transactions in almost all shops remained satisfactory with the support of local administrations.
“These shops were identified on the basis of available space and location for ensuring social distancing. Seventy-three more shops allowed for opening fall comparatively in partial/semi standalone category having adequate space for queue,” Shavan said, adding if the district administration deems it appropriate to open all shops irrespective of location (Malls/Complexes/Market places), they can convey to him so that the lists can be forwarded in future after stock checks.
Meanwhile, with shops and other business establishments opening in Jammu district yesterday and private transport hitting the roads, near normal conditions have returned in half of the Jammu region with five out of 10 districts opening shops and business establishments and allowing movement of private vehicles besides taxis and auto rickshaws but with restricted passengers.
Five districts where business activity has resumed included Jammu, Udhampur, Reasi, Rajouri and Doda while the business activity is set to restart in Poonch district from tomorrow as District Magistrate Rahul Yadav this evening issued the order on opening of shops in lockdown 4.0.
Kishtwar district which falls in Green Zone as compared to Orange Zone districts of Jammu, Udhampur and Reasi, was yet to give full relaxation as per the Union Territory Government order for lockdown 4.0 from May 20-31.
District Kishtwar administration, according to sources, wants all stranded persons to return before more relaxations in lockdown, sources said, adding that shops of essential commodities as well as some non-essentials were being opened on rotation basis in Kishtwar.
Three other districts of Jammu region including Kathua, Samba and Ramban fall in Red Zone.
However, District Magistrate Samba Rohit Khajuria today allowed opening of shops dealing in non-essential services on rotation basis with separate fixed time slots. Some services have been allowed to operate daily.
In Kathua district also, District Magistrate OP Bhagat apart from the essential commodities’ shops has allowed opening of some businesses dealing in non-essentials items on rotation basis with fixed timings.
In Jammu district, the business activities remained normal for second consecutive day though number of customers was negligible in some of the major markets. Only few people turned up in the City markets mainly as preventive measure due to fear of Corona pandemic as well as absence of commercial transport like buses and matadors.
A J&K Government statement issued today said the UT has so far evacuated 83334 stranded persons from different parts of the country and abroad.
The statement said 63109 persons were brought in buses from Lakhanpur, the gateway to Jammu and Kashmir and 19724 through special trains at Jammu and Udhampur Railway Stations while 501 have been brought back through special flights from abroad.
“During last 24 hours, 1755 stranded persons entered the Union Territory through Lakhanpur while 804 passengers arrived at Jammu Railway Station in a train from New Delhi. Besides 1873 passengers reached Udhampur Railway Station in two special trains from Ahmadabad and Pune,” the statement said, adding that eight trains have reached Jammu so far carrying 7273 passengers while 12451 stranded persons have reached Udhampur in 15 special trains.
At the same time, 23303 migrant workers have been facilitated to return to their home States from Jammu and Kashmir.
While 16508 workers were facilitated to return home from Lakhanpur, about 6800 have been sent on five trains, which have left from Katra in Reasi district. Five `Shramik Special’ trains left Katra during last three days for Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh carrying the labourers from Jammu and Kashmir.
Today, one train left for Madhya Pradesh at 1 pm carrying 1676 migrant workers while second train proceeded for Chattisgarh at 5 pm with 1567 labourers on board.
District Magistrate Udhampur Dr Piyush Singla said 898 passengers reached today at Udhampur Railway Station this morning from Pune while yesterday 975 stranded persons arrived from Ahmadabad.
Meanwhile, eight more persons-three each from Kathua and Ramban districts and one each from Jammu and Kishtwar districts tested positive for COVID-19 today.
Three persons of Ukhral in Ramban district including a 35-year old woman and a 63-year old man tested positive for Coronavirus today. All of them were returnees from different parts of the country and were under administrative quarantine.
Three persons from Kathua district, who too had returned via Lakhanpur and were under quarantine, have been tested Corona positive.
A 72-year old man of Preet Nagar, Digiana, who was contact of an elderly person from the same area who had died of Coronavirus recently, has tested positive. Yesterday, nine contacts of the Coronavirus deceased of Digiana including family members of his co-brother-in-law had tested positive in Raipur Satwari and Digiana.
A worker, who was also a returnee, tested positive in Kishtwar district.
There were now 140 active cases in Jammu region now. With today’s three more recoveries, the number of Corona recovered patients has gone up to 69 while there have been two Corona deaths in Jammu region-one each in Udhampur and Jammu districts.