NEW DELHI: Hours after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a nationwide lockdown for 21 days on Tuesday night, the southern state of Telangana sent a stronger warning saying authorities would issue “shoot on sight” orders if the curfew was not observed.
Telangana Chief Minister K C Rao’s statement came in the wake of several people defying the lockdown by venturing out onto the streets.
“Please don’t let it come to this. The administration cannot stop everyone, and I will have to call in the army or issue ‘shoot on sight’ orders,” Rao said in a press briefing late on Tuesday night, hours after Modi’s address to the nation where he decreed a three-week lockdown for 1.3 billion people.
He further requested people to “stay at home” as, otherwise “the entire society will get hurt. Nobody should step out of their homes strictly after 7 a.m.
“If they need something, they can dial 100 and the police will help them. If need be, we will also shut down petrol pumps,” Rao said.
Political analysts said that the shoot order reflected “the frustration of the government at a time when an unmanageable crisis” was unfolding.
“The government has woken up late to the escalating coronavirus crisis. It now wants to control it somehow. But you cannot stop people from stepping out on the street who survive on daily wages,” Prof. Venkat Narayan of Telangana-based Warangal University told Arab News.
By Wednesday, Telangana had reported 36 positive cases compared to the all-India figure of 562 – a jump of 19 cases since Tuesday.
Close on its heels was another southern state, Tamil Nadu, which also registered its first death due to the virus, taking the total toll across India to 11.
Meanwhile, many places across India witnessed panic buying after Tuesday’s announcement of a nationwide lockdown.
“We were already preparing ourselves for a tough time ahead, but the sudden announcement of the nationwide lockdown on Tuesday night has taken us by surprise. On top of that the government’s harsh measures to control mobility on the street has compelled us to stock rations,” Ganesh Kumar, a resident of Mokama in the eastern state of Bihar, told Arab News.
The government, however, assured people that essential services would be maintained and that there was no need to panic.
“People don’t need to worry about essential services. The government will ensure a supply of essential items,” Modi said in his address to the nation.
Some experts said they were worried about the impact of the lockdown on economically marginalized people.
“We cannot allow a virus safety protocol only for the middle-class who have homes and secure jobs and force the poor to stay hungry, walk hundreds of kilometers to their villages, with the police beating them. The government must find ways to save us all, rich and poor together,” Delhi-based social activist Harsh Mander said.
Prashant Kishore, a Patna-based political activist,said: “We are paying the price for being behind the curve. The decision to lockdown India may be right, but 21 days might be a bit too long.
“But then this is the price one pays for being behind the curve. With the shaky preparedness to deal with the Covid 19 crisis and very little to safeguard the poor, we could be staring at some tough days ahead,” he said.