Amid Mission Begin Again, Marathwada feels the lockdown heat as cases surge

Various district administrations have imposed blanket curfews, at a time when cities and towns with much larger case counts are opening up. As reported by The Indian Express earlier, over a million migrants have returned to Marathwada between March and June.

First Covid-19 positive case was detected in Pathri, a town of about 40,000 in Parbhani District, on Saturday following which civic employees sealed the locality. (Credit: Shaikh Haseeb)

ATIKH RASHID

Despite a large number of migrants returning from metro cities since March, the number of Covid-19 cases in several districts of Marathwada has remained comparatively lower than other parts of the state. This also meant that residents of towns and villages in the hinterland had an easier life owing to a few restrictions on their movement and functioning of markets.

However, since last one week, there has been a surge in Covid-19 cases in almost all districts in the region. Various district administrations have imposed blanket curfews, at a time when cities and towns with much larger case counts are opening up. As reported by The Indian Express earlier, over a million migrants have returned to Marathwada between March and June.

Barring Aurangabad, which is among the worst affected districts with 6,568 cases (294 deaths), no other district in Marathwada has gone past the three-digit mark. So far, Parbhani has recorded 142 cases (four deaths), Beed 142 (three deaths), Nanded 394 (14 deaths), Latur 425 (22 deaths), Osmanabad 264 (12 deaths), Jalna 719 (24) and Hingoli 288 cases (1 death).

In Parbhani district, where the case load is among the lowest in the state, Collector Deepak Muglikar has imposed a blanket curfew in urban areas instead of relying on notification and management of micro-containment areas, as being done in bigger cities in western Maharashtra with much larger Covid-19 counts.

The move is not going down well with the residents. In Pathri town, which saw its first Covid-19 case on Saturday, residents have gone weary of restrictions.

“There was a not single case detected in Pathri until Saturday, but due to the lockdown and restrictions I couldn’t do any business. I have exhausted all my savings and I’m not sure what will happen in future as the administration is taking more stringent measures now,” said Syed Musa (34), who earns a living by selling fried chicken at a roadside stall in Pathri.

However, the Parbhani collector agreed that imposition of curfew was a strict policy, but he said that “on and off curfews” are required to control the pandemic. He added that local residents were welcoming the measures being taken to control the spread of coronavirus.

“Curfew has been imposed only in urban areas of the district after number of cases has gone up significantly. This is a measure required to control the spread of Covid-19… The aim is not to harass people, but to avoid the spread on a mass scale,” Muglikar said, adding that many migrants coming from Pune and Mumbai and staying without informing the authorities was adding to the troubles.

He said the administration was mulling the possibility of relaxing the curfews between 7 am and 3 pm everyday while keeping a complete closure on weekends.

Similar restrictions have been imposed in Jalna city, where a 10-day curfew has been imposed under Section 144 (1) (3) of Criminal Procedure Code. In Beed city, an eight-day curfew has been imposed. In Parali, after five staffers of State Bank of India tested positive on Saturday, an eight day curfew was imposed. In Hingoli city, a five-day curfew was imposed on Sunday evening. In Kalamnuri town in the district that had recorded seven Covid-19 cases, a five-day curfew has been imposed.

In Latur, the district administration has taken a stance that curfew and continued lockdown were not essential to tackle the pandemic. Collector G Shreekanth said he believes curfew only grants a break to the administration rather than breaking the chain of coronavirus transmission.

“It’s very easy for a collector to impose curfew but we all know by now that it’s not the way to tackle the spread of the virus and is very taxing on the poor. Hence, we are not imposing lockdown in the district. We are defining micro-containment zones and focusing on their management and penalising those who are not following rules. This approach requires the administration to work more, but it does not put the entire population through suffering,” said Shreekanth.

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