Several residents of Bengaluru city have complained that police personnel, deployed to enforce the lockdown, have been shutting down grocery stores and drinking water units. This, despite the Karnataka Chief Secretary Vijay Bhaskar issuing an order that clearly said that grocery stores are essential services that will be allowed to operate.
Speaking to TNM, a grocer who owns Tiny Super Store in Jeevan Bhima Nagar, said that he decided to shut down the entire store as supplies were not coming in. He also said that the police had shut down the local water-filling units in the area, due to which water cans were unavailable.
Manju, owner of the Manju Mineral Water Supply unit near HAL said that the police had asked him to shut down due to the lockdown. “When I told him that essential services could be open, he said more than five people come to my outlet for filling water and hence we should shut down. They threatened to arrest us,” Manju said.
Water supply units including Bisleri filling stations in Bengaluru say that in many areas, the police shut down the outlets at around 11 am on Tuesday, stating that all commercial establishments were to be shut.
Pooja Rustum, a program manager and resident of Indiranagar, told TNM that she ordered for a can of water from her local grocer on Monday evening. She waited for two hours and called him back only to find that the grocer refused delivery. “When I asked him why, he told me that the police had chased the delivery man away. He went back to the store. He also said they were closed for home deliveries and that the Swiggy and Dunzo persons could come and pick up the items,” Pooja said.
If you are performing Essential Duties as per Government Order then:— Bhaskar Rao IPS (@deepolice12) March 24, 2020
1 travel in company vehicle with Logo 2.wear company Uniform
3 Carry ID
Though the Chief Minister and the Chief Secretary said that residents can step out to buy essentials, there have been reports of police misbehaving with people on the roads. A resident of New Thippasandra, Harishekar, a 27-year-old techie, went out to buy water as he had run out. The grocery stores near his house have been shut down.
“I went all the way past BEML Gate to buy a water can. When I was coming back, the police near Suranjan Das Road stopped me and asked why I was outside. I showed them the water can and said I had run out of water and none of the shops were within walking distance. He just started hitting my Honda Activa with the lathi and chased me away,” Harishekar said.
Police shut down grocery stores
A resident of Varthur, Manohar Samuel Krishnan, who went out to buy groceries with his wife on Monday, travelled from his father’s residence in Whitefield to Varthur to buy vegetables as most of the grocery stores were shut in Whitefield. When he stopped by New Frosty’s in Thubarahalli, the store was shut and the manager told him that the police had asked them to shut down as they were not allowed to sell meat.
He went to the Frosty’s outlet in Mahadevapura, which was open. “Two policemen on a bike came in and asked me what I was doing. I told them I was buying meat. The policeman told me that I am not supposed to be buying meat. They shut down the store. We just went home,” Manohar said.
Residents of Domlur, said that the grocers and vegetable vendors near the Venkateshwara Temple in the area were forcibly shut down by the police on Tuesday morning. Police personnel allegedly started beating up people, who went to buy groceries outside the shops located near New Shathi Sagar Hotel.
“They took the lathi and just started hitting near the shop counters and forcing them to shut down. When I asked them why they were doing that they hit my legs with the lathi and started chasing me. The government is asking us not to hoard groceries and when we go to buy it, they beat us up. What are we supposed to do?” a resident of Domlur questioned.
A resident of Whitefield said that the police also shut down Unique Hyper Market in Balagere Main Road in Varthur.
Police turning away supply trucks?
With Bengaluru’s borders closed off, the state government on Monday issued an order that only goods and vehicles supplying essential commodities can enter the city’s limits. However, the police have allegedly been turning away supply trucks.
According to Sumeet Kaur, Founder of Spudnik Farms, which delivers groceries to people’s homes in the city, the police sent back their supply trucks on Tuesday morning. One of the company’s trucks was allegedly stopped in Kaggalipura on Kanakapura Road at around 7 am.
“This took place between 7-8 am in the morning. The government notification mentions that vehicles transporting essentials are exempted from the restrictions. But our trucks were going to pick up produce from farmers. One of the trucks was stopped in Kagalipura on Kanakapura Road. I spoke to the police officer in Kagalipura but they refused to allow our vehicles to pass. The police did not engage with us about it,” Sumeet said.
Another one of the company’s trucks was halted in Narasapura in Kolar. The truck was sent back to Hoskote, she said.
According to the police, only those supply vehicles that have obtained transit permissions from the Superintendent of Police in the said districts will be allowed to cross district borders.
What the police say
An Assistant Commissioner of Police, on condition of anonymity told TNM that they were instructed to shut down all shops and use lathis if any of them were open. “We were just following orders,” he said.
Speaking to TNM, Bengaluru Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao however claims that he had instructed all Assistant Commissioners of Police in all subdivisions, to allow grocers and water suppliers to remain open.
“I don’t know why they are shutting it down. I have clearly informed them not to shut down grocery stores. Based on complaints, I have instructed them to not enforce closure of grocery stores and water supply delivery as well. We will ensure this doesn’t happen,” he said.