Kerala lockdown: Will the indifference of Malayalis invite stricter control?

Kerala lockdown: Will the indifference of Malayalis invite stricter control?
Police try to disperse the crowd in Kollam town.

It looked like in many places, even in highly affected districts like Kasaragod and Kannur, people have taken the lockdown as some kind of a holiday. People collected in groups at junctions and in front of provision stores. The police had a tough time dispelling crowds, even in Kasaragod where the total number of infected people had risen to 39.

In Kannur, charges were filed against eight people who were instrumental in forming big crowds in various points along the town. Malappuram district police chief Abdul Karim U said vehicles that were out on the roads for no compelling reason would be taken into custody and the owners would be driven back to their homes in a police vehicle after they were slapped with petty cases.

Thiruvananthapuram city police commissioner Balram Kumar Upadhyay said that folks in the capital were forcing their domestic helps to work for them even during lockdown. He attributed the large number of autorickshaws on the city's roads to the movement of domestic helps.

The directive regarding domestic workers is clear. They should not travel to work. What's more, their employers should still pay them their daily wages all through the period of the lockdown, at least till March 31.

The Thiruvananthapuram city police commissioner had further complained that small tea shops had also opened, allowing clusters of people to gather around them.


In Kollam, a district where the virus scare is relatively low, the police chief, Narayanan T, himself had to rush to the roads to dissuade unnecessary motorists. "We are trying our best to tell people that only in case of emergency cases, like purchasing essential supplies or going to hospital, should they come out of their homes," Narayanan said.

Anticipating such a needless chaos, curfew was clamped in Pathanamthitta and Ernakulam. Once section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code is in force, it would be illegal for more than five people to come together in a single place. The government had already empowered district collectors to invoke section 144 if the need arose.

Ernakulam collector S Suhas said the curfew was necessary to prevent more people from getting infected. "This is not to cause further inconvenience but for our security. No one should venture out of their houses except in case of an emergency. Please cooperate with those who are working hard, risking their lives, to prevent the spread of the virus," the collector said in a Facebook post.


There was good news, too. All the 67 samples sent to the Alappuzha Virology Institute from Kalamassery Medical College have turned negative results. As it stands, there are 16 infected in the medical college; seven British tourists, three Kannur residents, five Kannur natives and one person from Malappuram.

Curfew was also imposed in certain areas under Devikulam taluk, in Munnar, Pallivasal, Kunchithanni and Kannan Devan village.

Shop and bar timings

There was some confusion regarding the opening of shops selling essential provisions. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said these would be open from 7am to 5pm in all districts except Kasaragod. However, in the lockdown order issued by Chief Secretary Tom Jose, it was laid down that shps in other districts, too, would be allowed to function only between 11am and 5pm Many shops that pulled up their shutters early in the morning on Tuesday were asked to down them in various parts of the state.

However, the government promptly clarified that the 7 a.m to 5 p.m. timing will remain valid for all districts except Kasaragod.


There is also a lack of clarity on the functioning of bars. The Chief Minister, while declaring the lockdown on March 23, had said that bars would be closed but would be allowed to sell liquor from their front counters. However, excise commissioner S Ananthakrishnan has prohibited counter sales, too. Bar owners have approached the government seeking clarity on the issue.

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