DW BUREAU / CHANDIGARH
The Punjab government on Monday clamped a curfew to fight coronavirus, making it the first state to take the drastic measure after finding that many people were ignoring the state-wide lockdown ordered by it.
In a video message, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said he was forced to take the step “in the larger interest of the state, and in the interest of all of you”.
Singh said he received reports that people were moving around as usual in towns, mohallas and cities despite the lockdown that came into effect on Monday morning.
He called the violation of the lockdown, which will last up to March 31, “unacceptable” and said it was his duty as the state’s head to “save Punjab”.
The tough measure was followed by an announcement on relief measures, including food and medicines for the poor. The last dates for paying power and water bills and clearing farm loans too have been extended.
Amarinder Singh ordered the imposition of “full curfew with no relaxations,” after reviewing the situation with Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh and Director General of Police Dinkar Gupta, a government statement said here.
“The DCs (deputy commissioners) have been asked to issue orders accordingly. Any person required to be given relaxation will be so allowed specifically for given period & purpose,” Singh tweeted.
It will be a continuous 24-hour curfew, the CM made clear in a statement.
“Curfew was imposed as people were still coming out in large numbers. So the idea is to keep them inside,” a senior official told PTI.
After the imposition of curfew, police at many places in the state were asking shopkeepers, including chemists, to down shutters and telling people to go back to their homes. At some places, people had rushed to the shops to buy essential daily-use items. The Punjab government had on Sunday announced a lockdown to check the spread of coronavirus in the state. Punjab reported 21 coronavirus cases till Monday morning.
Initial reports in the morning from several places, including Amritsar, Moga and Ludhiana, said people were assembling at markets despite the lockdown order.
Police officials made announcements in these shopping areas, asking people not to gather and warning them of strict action.
The chief minister had on Sunday appealed to people to follow health safeguards and avoid leaving their homes unless there was an emergency.
Meanwhile, the CM announced a slew of relief measures including free food, shelter and medicines for the needy and also deferred the payment of electricity, water and sewerage bills.
Singh sanctioned Rs 20 crore out of the CM’s relief fund for free food and medicines for those in need.
Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh said the CM directed the local government department to extend the date for the payment of water and sewerage bills to all municipal bodies by a month.
The amnesty scheme on property tax has been extended up to May 31.
The last date for paying electricity bills up to Rs 10,000 has been extended up to April 15 from March 20. The payment of motor vehicles taxes can now be deferred by a month.
Contract carriage vehicles would be given 100 per cent exemption from the Motor Vehicle Tax for not plying during this period, the government said.
The cooperation department decided to waive penal interest on loan taken by farmers from central cooperative banks and primary agriculture cooperative societies for two months.
Farmers can now repay their crop loans by April 30, the statement said.
The CM also ordered the social security department to immediately release pensions amounting to Rs 150 crore for March.
The government has already released pensions totalling Rs 296 crore for February. It has also announced a payment of Rs 3,000 each to registered