A 14-day lockdown in Guwahati came into force on Sunday evening in order to fight the rising number of coronavirus cases in the city, which the opposition Congress termed the failure of the Assam health minister.
Kamrup Metropolitan district, under which Guwahati falls, was completely locked down from 7 pm on Sunday till 6 pm on July 12 with even shops of grocery, meat and all other items downing the shutters. Only pharmacies have been allowed to function.
This time, authorities have decided not to issue any vehicle pass even for essential services as there were many instances of its misuse during the nationwide lockdown that came into effect on March 25.
Former chief minister Tarun Gogoi criticised the decision to impose a stricter lockdown in Guwahati and blamed it to inefficacy of Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
"Lockdown declared by Dr. Himanta B Sarma is not only unwise & also to cover up his failure in containing covid patients but also failed to adequately arrange hospital beds for treatment. Ultimately adversely affecting the daily wage earners, common people," he tweeted.
As grocery and vegetable shops will remain closed during the lockdown, people across the city thronged markets and department stores to stock the essentials, ignoring norms of social distancing. Large gatherings and long queues were seen at shops, markets and ATMs.
Taking advantage of the situation, retailers of vegetables and fishes increased the prices exorbitantly in almost all areas of the city. The prices of potatoes rose to Rs 80 a kg from around Rs 25 on Friday, while cucumber was priced at Rs 100 per kg.
Tomatoes and squash were selling at Rs 120 per kg, while onions were being sold at Rs 40-50 per kg.
"Where is the Civil Supply Department? Where are the district administration and police? Why was there no control at all? How can we purchase items for 14 days at this high rate?" a shopper said, expressing helplessness.
Many people expressed anguish as the lockdown came into force in month-end when salary was not credited in their accounts yet, thereby putting them in a fix.
A rickshaw puller said, "I can earn only for the day's need. Where will I get money to store for 14 days? At this high prices, I cannot feed my family properly for one day even. If there is no help from the government, my family will starve to death."