Two weeks of city shutdown: How did Delhi respond?

India

Two weeks of lockdown are over and there is one more to go before the government takes a decision of whether to extend it or not. But how did Delhi respond to the lockdown?

By and large, people restricted themselves to their homes amid heavy security presence on the streets as Coronavirus cases crossed the 570-mark in the Capital by Tuesday.

Not that there were no exceptions where people violated the rule. From lying about purchase of essential items such as medicines and groceries to faking sick or a visit to hospital, a good number of people found various ways to violate the lockdown.

Responding in quick time, Delhi police undertook a crackdown.

As on Wednesday, as many as 4,933 FIRs were registered since March 25 for violation of lockdown. Another 91,589 people were detained and more than 12,825 vehicles impounded.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had ordered 1.3 billion people in the country to stay inside their homes for three weeks starting March 25 as a measure to stop the spread of the Coronavirus.

On Monday, for example, Delhi Police detained a person who was smuggling liquor in milk containers on his motorbike in New Delhi district. There were cases, in which people came out of their residences. Poorva Mishra, a 29-year-old woman, along with her two children, was caught in Uttam Nagar by the police when she was giving a joy ride to her kids.

“Regular surveillance is being done through physical verification and technical monitoring also. The violators are being booked under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code and Section 3 of Epidemic Diseases Act,” MS Randhawa, Delhi Police spokesperson said.

Apart from imposing lockdown, police had a tough time ensuring people in home quarantine do not come out. As many as 247 FIRs have been lodged till now in different police stations against the persons found jumping home quarantine rules/conditions.

CRIME RATES DOWN

While police personnel were busy in implementing the lockdown, there was an unprecedented drop in crime rate, cases of domestic violence being an exception which saw a jump.

Police statistics say not a single case of abduction or extortion has been reported since the lockdown. Also, crimes such as robbery, snatching, and theft have dropped significantly compared to pre-lockdown period.

Between March 22 to March 31, only 409 vehicles were stolen as against the average of 750-950 in a week. In the same period, there were just 49 snatching incidents as against 150-170 per week. Also, there were only 14 robberies in the week compared to 40 a week in periods without lockdown. There were seven murders in the week, which is again half of the average number of murders in Delhi per week.

“This is an unprecedented drop,” said a police officer.

POLLUTION LEVELS CAME DOWN

The 21-day lockdown, coupled with favourable weather, did not just give Delhi its cleanest air possible, it also came as an opportunity for scientists to study the baseline pollution levels.

“This will help us to prepare a roadmap and strategy to cut down on sources. We know the lowest pollution levels,” said an official of the Pollution Control Board.

Pollution levels since March 25, the beginning of lockdown, have hovered around 50-100 which is satisfactory category. This, clearly, is due to the suspension of most human activities.

River Yamuna also showed major improvement in pollution levels as all legal and illegal industrial units across Delhi-NCR remain shut. The maximum volume of effluents that goes in the river is from domestic waste but the industrial waste is more hazardous, experts said.

“There is a visible change in the river. Yamuna is much cleaner now. The water is quite clear and the opacity has improved,” said the official.

Raghav Chadha, vice-chairman of the Jal Board in the Delhi government, confirmed that the water quality of Yamuna River has improved.

“After testing the water of Yamuna in many places in Delhi, we have come to know that the quality of water of Yamuna has improved in Delhi. Its detailed report has not been revealed yet, but the factors that have come out so far are that the industries are closed in Delhi. The industrial discharge is not going to the Yamuna. Also, the water coming from Haryana is clean and ammonia-free,” he said.

BOOZE ARRANGEMENT

People pulled out all the stops to procure liquor during the lockdown.

“The vender asked me to reach at the vegetable shop near my house and then send the location. A person came on a scooter carrying a cotton bag containing peas and handed it over to me. The bottle of whiskey was underneath it, hidden by vegetables. I had to pay extra for it,” said Sanjay Malik, a resident of Kanjhawala in North West Delhi.

Recently, Faridabad Crime Branch had seized 40 boxes of liquor and arrested a person named Subhash of Ballabhgarh. The accused was transporting liquor in Santro car on April 1. He was nabbed at a check post at Malerna Road under the Adarsh Nagar police station.

“We have not received any complaint of selling liquor in black market. Whenever we receive a complaint against individual vendors or resto-bar owners, our intelligence wing conducts a raid and does extensive investigation. If any person is found guilty, their license is recommended for cancelation immediately,” said Ajay Kumar Ghambhir, Additional Commissioner of Excise Department.

(With inputs from Ankit Yadav in New Delhi)

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