Coronavirus: Under lockdown, Manipur running out of essential commodities

Prices of all essential commodities have been hiked unreasonably in Manipur which is under a lockdown to check the spread of COVID-19. Some media reports quoted people as saying that rice and flour were not available. Some grocery shops which used to sell these items through the backdoor, in view of the curfew restrictions, have closed down as stocks had run out. The government’s announcement that PDS rice for April will be distributed free of cost by March is yet to be translated into reality.

Soon after indefinite curfew was clamped, Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh said: “The curfew will be in force for some time and people should stay indoors. There will be no shortage of essential items. While inter-State bus services are suspended trucks transporting essential items will not be obstructed. People should also stop panic buying since there shall be no shortage”. However, ground realities are worrisome.

Some retailers say that the wholesale traders do not open shops as they do not have any stock now. A. Devika, a working woman, said, “Baby foods, including milk supplements, are out of stock. The shop keepers are yet to replenish their empty stocks”. Prices of onion, potato and other essential items have become prohibitive.

Some weeks ago the government had announced the suspension of water supply as the rivers which are the main sources are bone dry. W. Lalit who has been selling raw water to the people at ₹200 per 1,000 litres in his water tanker said, “The government had shut down the water supply facility. The private businessmen also cannot supply to all the tankers. Now we are selling 1,000 litres of raw water at ₹400.” But the supply is likely to stop soon since there is no source.

Some pharmacies are open for certain hours in the urban areas. Chonjon, a pharmacist in the Imphal west district, said, “Our stock is dwindling since the wholesalers cannot open shops. Baby foods, medicines and life saving drugs are out of stock”.

Following erratic rains and drought-like situation last year, the price of tasty and nutritious Manipuri rice was hiked at ₹52 a kg. Several persons say that in view of the curfew they cannot buy rice even at this extortionate price. Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi had spelled out the guidelines during the 21-day lockdown these are hardly implemented in the curfew-bound Manipur.

Meanwhile, official sources said that out of the 176 co-passengers of the Manipuri girl afflicted with COVID-19, 133 persons are now quarantined in 10 centres. They had travelled together in an Air Asia flight from Kolkata to Imphal via Agartala on March 21. The remaining persons are located to be lodged in these quarantine centres.