Panic buying in Assam before lockdown begins

Guwahati, Mar 24 (PTI) Ahead of the statewide eight-day lockdown from 6 pm on Tuesday, markets and shops in Assam witnessed huge rush of buyers who wanted to stock up on essential items.
Food items, soaps, disinfectants and other essential items flew off the shelves before midday as people jostled with one another in shops ignoring the one-metre social distance norm the government has advised.
Similar was the situation in the vegetable, fish and meat markets, pharmacies and even liquor shops where people were seen buying stuff in huge quantities at premium rates to stock up their homes and brace for the week-long restrictions indoors ordered by the government till March 31 midnight.
In their bid to grab the items before they get sold out, buyers also forgot Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s assurance that grocery and medicine supply will continue to be available during the period.
Kandarpa Kalita was one such buyer who was seen near a Guwahati market carrying four large bags full of vegetables on a rod tied behind his two-wheeler.
“We have to eat well and remain strong to keep our immunity high to fight the coronavirus. That is why I have bought these vegetables for my family,” Kalita said.
Home-maker Pramila Boro was queuing up in front of a grocery shop in Kokrajhar district. “I must have rice, dal, oil, milk and other items. My family consists of my elderly in-laws, children and husband. I require stuff in large quantities that should last for eight days. My husband is in the vegetable market,” she said.
Bipul Gogoi in upper Assam’s Sivasagar district was struggling under the weight of his purchases of fish, meat and vegetables at a local market. But he was happy that he got all the items he wanted, “even though I paid double the normal prices”.
However, this panic buying is not liked by all.
Mask-wearing college student Hamid Ali of Karimganj district said, “The mad rush to buy groceries, vegetables, fish and meat has increased their prices. Shops and markets are so crowded that there is practically no space between two persons. This will turn a market a happy hunting ground for coronavirus.”
Health Minister Sarma had urged people not to panic as basic essential services will be available during the eight- day lockdown period to prevent the spread of deadly novel Coronavirus COVID-19 in the state.
Meanwhile, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has directed district Deputy Commissioners and Superintendents of Police to ensure that there is no shortage of essential commodities in the state.