Not giving two hoots to the lockdown in place, totos (e-rickshaw) plied normally, people crowded markets at Tahabazaar, while groups of people also celebrated Ram Navami and attended a fair at the Raghunathpur area under the Balurghat Municipality today.
However, the district administration remained inactive, as always, ever since the lockdown began. “There were no police personnel or administrative official who would stop the fair. Though the crowd was thin as compared to the occasion on normal days, the devotees were not seen following the guidelines of the government in maintaining social distancing,” sources said.
People of Balurghat have been demanding proper execution of the lockdown orders in the municipality as well as rural areas. While the administration shifted the market to the Balurghat High School grounds on 29 March to avoid crowding, traders and people did not follow the new arrangements after that.
More than 500 devotees took a holy dip in the Atryee river and offered prayers at the Ram temple at Raghunathpur. A few vendors were also seen selling their wares in the fair, while totos plied normally. People from different parts of the municipality and even from village areas attended the fair, it is learnt.
“This is a traditional fair and we join the fun every year. We came here in totos as other vehicles are not plying due to the lockdown. We offered prayers and will now go back home at Vatpara,” said one devotee, Subadh Sarkar.
A housewife and former health department staff in Balurghat, Kajori Dey, said, “As a health staff, I know the importance of social distancing in times like these. But it is unfortunate that the administration has become inactive. I don’t know why they are behaving like this. The lockdown should be strictly imposed otherwise the coronavirus situation may go beyond our control.”
Additional District Magistrate Pranab Kumar Ghosh said they have been campaigning to make people aware of the lockdown and are requesting them to stay indoors. Market closure protested: Meanwhile, in Raiganj, people living in Mohanbati and areas nearby are facing problems after the police, with instructions from both the district administration and the Raiganj Municipality, allegedly shut all vegetable, fish meat and grocery markets at Mohanbati Bazaar last Tuesday. Congress MLA of Raiganj, Mohit Sengupta, criticised the sudden shutdown of the market and has sent an email to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee against the administration and the Raiganj municipality.
He has alleged that different markets are being closed without consultations with the local MLA and other political party leaders. The Secretary of the North Bengal Journalist Association, Tapan Chowdhury, has also sent a memorandum to Miss Banerjee against the sudden closure of the main market in Raiganj.
“People were not following the lockdown and were crowding the market, while police had to resort to lathi-charge too,” sources said,. The Secretary of the vegetable and fish market at Mohanbati Bazaar, Kajal Rahut, said, “People had started following the guidelines from Monday, but still the police started beating up shop-keepers. They also asked us to close our shops and go to Udaipur, around four km away from here. This is not possible for both the traders and the people.”
The Secretary of the North Bengal Journalist Association, Mr Chowdhury, said, “Around 20,000 people depend on Mahanbati Bazaar for their daily needs. We are upset about this sudden closure.” Raiganj SDO Argha Ghosh, on the other hand, said vegetable vendors are going to people’s doorsteps in rickshaw vans.
“Home delivery services for grocery items have also started by traders in Raiganj town. As such, people are not facing any problem. The Raiganj Municipality chairman could not be contacted for comment.