Customers crowd outside a wholesale shop at Iewduh market in Shillong on Friday Credit: EastMojo

Shillong: Long queues and large crowds were seen outside fair price shops in Shillong as the government allowed fair price shops to open on Friday and Saturday for people to buy their essentials. The crowding actually nullified the one metre distance norm said to be necessary to avoid contracting the deadly COVID-19 virus from an infected person.

Despite several announcements made by the government that the state has enough stock yet people were seen panicking. People thronged Iewduh market. The local authorities have directed every retailer not to sell goods in bulk.

At a grocery store in Mawlai Mawroh, a customer had asked for 4 kg of sugar but was denied and was allowed to purchase just 1 kg.

Long queues were seen as early as 8 am at grocery shops of Mawlai, Mawdatbaki. Customers here seemed very patient and kept the 1-meter distance in mind. Volunteers present were also keeping a close watch.

While the local chiefs (Dorbar Shnong) at Mawlai Mawroh kept reminding the people to keep the distance. The customers did keep distance for a moment but in a few minutes, the customers were all packed again.

While speaking to EastMojo, Local Head George Lyngdoh said that the people have to be reminded time and again to maintain the 1-meter distance.

“I have been here since morning 9 am monitoring the crowd and advising them to maintain distance. There was a lot of crowd since morning but now it has reduced. We will discuss what stringent action can be taken to make people cautious about the 1-meter distance,” said Lyngdoh.

Mawlai Mawdatbaki headman (Rangbah Shnong) BR Kharmujai said that instruction has been given to the owners of shops to limit sale per person to ensure equal distribution.

Also Read: How Meghalaya businesses are helping needy amid COVID-19 lockdown

“We have instructed the retailers not to take advantage of the situation by hiking the prices. Yes, they have the right to gain profit from their sale but not to take advantage. We have our volunteers from the locality who are ensuring that we are in compliance with the advisories of the government,” said Kharmujai.

People carrying bags loaded with essentials at Mawlai wait for their turn to purchase bread. Most shops had run out of bread. Only one van selling bakery items was at sight 

Meanwhile, a kwai (betelnut) seller who sells her goods at Iewduh market was furious at the government over the lack of arrangement made for their section. The lady said that people selling groceries are able to cope up as they have been exempted but what about us. “Even though the government has announced that Rs 1000 will be given to the registered workers. But for us who don’t know much about registration, will there be any compensation for us?” asked the lady.

The fair price shops opened their shutters at 9 am and were made to close by 5 pm. Meghalaya started its shutdown on March 17, with schools, malls, cinema halls, etc made to close after the Covid-19 outbreak.

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