CHENNAI: On the first day of the relaxation of the lockdown, Chennai was seemingly back to normal as vehicles filled the roads on Monday after over a month.
The city police conducted checks at important junctions around the city by placing barricades and making special lanes for ambulances and other emergency services. Meanwhile, motorists who came out of their houses after a long time filled petrol bunks in the city.
“People have been arriving since morning and most people in cars are filling their tanks, probably because they are scared of another strict lockdown,” said G Balaji, a staffer at a petrol bunk near Shivaji Mandapam.
Corporation and health staff who were conducting tests at camps for a month have now taken to the streets. In Pudupet, where people were busy getting their vehicles repaired, the health staff took swab tests.
“Since there is public interaction now, we were instructed to conduct tests regularly. We will continue to do the tests and quarantine people who test positive in the coming days. We are now focusing on commercial areas and new shops which opened after a long time,” said a corporation staffer who assisted the team from the health department.
Additional shops opened
Apart from vegetable and grocery stores, the state government has permitted shops selling electrical appliances, mechanic shops, automobile spare part shops, stationery shops and mobile repair shops to reopen. GP Road in Pudupet which is known for shops selling spare parts and repairing automobiles was filled with vehicles and mechanics.
“Mechanics and people who wanted their vehicles repaired have been arriving here from the morning. At around 10 am, the crowd was too much. We had to send three patrol vehicles to clear the road and issue challans to some vehicles illegally parked on the road blocking the driveway,” said a police officer attached to the Traffic Wing.
Meanwhile, parents gathered at stationery shops near their houses to purchase items as schools are reopening. Speaking to The New Indian Express, a few electricians and plumbers who visit houses said they were not able to get e-passes to travel within the city as instructed by the government.
H Narendrakumar, 48, from Pallavaram said that he has been getting calls throughout the month to repair broken appliances. If the house is near his house, he managed to get there without being caught at the checkposts. If they are far away, he used to contact his friends who live nearby.
“Though the government has removed the curtailment on us, we are not able to get e-passes online. I asked my son to get the e-pass and he said the website is not working properly. People who work as electricians and plumbers are left completely at the mercy of the police. Some understand our plight and let us go. Some are persistent in snatching our vehicles just when we are starting to make a living after a month,” said Narendrakumar.
Traffic without signals
Though vehicles are back on the streets, many signals are not functioning in the city. The traffic signals that were shut down a month ago have not been been turned on yet in major parts of the city. They were operating only in a few places like Spencer Signal in Anna Salai and some on GST Road.
Without sufficient traffic police at checkpoints, motorists are left at the mercy of each other as vehicles from four directions move chaotically and dangerously. A police officer said that there are not enough people to monitor signals.
Meanwhile, another officer added, “With a long queue of people, it is difficult to question each vehicle and catch people roaming around unnecessarily. Sometimes checking is the reason for traffic at checkpoints. Hence we end up only checking ten percent or so and other vehicles are allowed to go.”
Surprise! No crowds at vegetable markets
Despite reopening after a month of lockdown, several vegetable markets in the city did not have crowds as expected by vendors.
Gajalakshmi from T Nagar who owns a vegetable stall at Eldams Road said, “I have been here since morning. The turnout is surprisingly low. I thought it would be overflowing. Only later we understood it was because of the government scheme of mobile shops to sell vegetables and fruits. Since people get them at the government price and at their doorsteps, not many turned up.”
Meanwhile, others said it is because of the lack of public transport. When vendors got the vegetables wholesale from Kothavalchavadi or Koyambedu, they used to transport them through buses. Now that there is no public transport, even some of the vendors did not show up.
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