24 Mar Scramble for groceries as supermarkets close and police crack down on vegetable vendors
Some shops and supermarkets claimed to have run out of stock
Despite the government’s assurances that essential goods and grocery items would be available, several supermarkets were closed. In many instances, the police were allegedly instructing roadside vegetable vendors to pack up and leave.
In Basaveshwara Nagar, even essential items like vegetables and milk were not available. Many of the vendors The Hindu spoke to said that they were being forced to close their businesses.
“The police came in the morning and told us nothing should be open. If I don’t sell this today, I will not have enough money to buy food for tomorrow,” said a vegetable vendor.
The normally busy Hutchens Cross in Fraser Town was silent on Tuesday morning with only a few motorists and pedestrians on the road. The silence was broken by the sudden wail of a siren after which people could be seen running shouting, “The police are coming”.
Four policemen on two motorcycles were patrolling the road; but they did not shut down the few grocery stores that were open.
They used a loudspeaker to tell people not to gather at supermarkets and chased people who were simply idling away their time on the roadside. They stopped pedestrians who weren’t wearing masks and asked them to cover their face.
While almost all the grocery stores had kept hand sanitizers, smaller stores had set up counters at the entrance and fresh stock outside on the pavement. This led to people crowding at entrances. The moment the police left the area, shoppers returned.
Bread, eggs and milk were selling out quickly though retailers were doing their best to prevent people from buying in bulk. Fresh fruits and vegetables were available in all stores but there was no supply of pulses.
Though there was no restriction on the functioning of supermarkets, several had downed their shutters. A few that were open in Vidyaranyapura Main Road claimed to have run out of staples, such as pulses, cereals, ready-to-eat and packaged food, and even biscuits.
“We were supposed to receive stock today. But with the prohibitory orders in place, we don’t know if the supply will return to normal or when we will receive stock,” said a manager of a supermarket on Tuesday.
Anticipating such a situation, citizens seemed to have stocked up on not just essentials, but also items needed for the Ugadi festival.
A resident of Chandra Layout, Vijayanagar, said that his family had decided to stock up for the festival. “Just as well, as even the shops that were open this morning were asked to be closed by the local police,” the resident said.
Two retailers claimed that there was no supply in godowns, but wholesalers at an APMC yard said otherwise.
“There’s enough stock of all pulses in the APMC yard for at least 10 days. Around 200 lorries were loaded on Tuesday morning at Yeshwantpur. There’s panic buying at retail stores. At the same time, police are stopping vehicles disrupting the wholesale-retail supply chain,” said one wholesaler.
‘Movement of fresh fruits and vegetables has been hit’
The movement of essential commodities such as fresh fruits and vegetables by organised supply chains has been hit due to lack of clarity among officials manning the borders in the five south Indian States as part of the lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to a fresh produce supply chain firm.
Lawrencedale Agro Processing India (LEAF), one of the prominent fresh produce supply chain firms that has been working across southern States with the involvement of small and marginal farmers under the Integrated Horticultural Development Scheme, has maintained that the present lockdown imposed by various State governments is to restrict movement of people.
The government notifications clearly mention that movement of essential commodities, including fresh fruits and vegetables, should not be hampered. But, the authorities at the Check Posts at the five Southern States are imposing restrictions.
“Due to lack of clarity at the check-posts of States, the entry of our vehicles is being either stopped or not allowed to return to home base,” said Palat Vijayaraghavan, founder & CEO, LEAF. He sought the intervention of the State governments at the earliest.