KASARAGOD: Hundreds of traders from Badiadka, a small town in Kasaragod district, hit the streets with begging bowls to protest against the government's alleged arbitrary lockdown rules which kept their shops shut for three weeks.
The town has around 350 shops, of which only around 12 -- including three supermarkets, which sell food provisions, vegetables, bakery items, and milk -- are allowed to open. Other traders also have families to feed, said Kunjar Mohammed, president of Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi's Badiadka unit.
The government is enforcing a panchayat-wise lockdown in the state solely based on the test positivity rate (TPR), which is the number of Covid positive cases in 100 tests.
But in many panchayats, the tests are woefully low or conducted among primary and secondary contacts, which throw up a higher TPR.
Several doctors said they did not agree with TPR being used as the sole yardstick to lock down a panchayat.
Vorkady panchayat had a test positivity rate of 66.67% because two of the three samples tested were positive.
In Badiadka, the TPR was 17.23% in the seven days ended July 6 and so a triple lockdown was imposed for one week. "But the decision was taken based on tests conducted on 383 samples in one week. The panchayat has 30,000 people," said Mohammed.
The traders said the panchayat and Health Department are not heeding their demand to increase testing. On Monday (July 12), 317 samples were tested, of which 62 were positive, keeping the test positivity rate at 19.6%. Before that, for two weeks, the shops were allowed to open only on Fridays. "Buses are jam-packed. So are the queues in front of liquor shops and vaccination centres. But only shops have to remain shut," he said.
Mohammed said ward 14 reported a higher number of cases. "The government could have cordoned off the ward instead of imposing a lockdown in the entire panchayat with total disregard for lives and livelihoods," he said.
The Kerala government revised the categorisation last week.
A TPR below 5% is considered low and classified as A; from 5% to 10% is considered moderate and classified as B; from 10% to 15% is considered high and classified as high; and a TPR above 15% is classified as D and considered critical and a triple lockdown is imposed.
Ajanur, a panchayat abutting Kanhangad municipality, has a TPR of 31.6% because 25 of the 79 samples tested were positive.
Delampady has a TPR Of 60% because 12 of the 20 samples tested positive. Kallar has a test positivity rate of 43.8% based on 64 tests.
The TPR in Meenja is 20% because one in five samples tested positive. "The government is relying on such a low number of tests to come up with such big lockdown rules. We are against that. That's why we had to come out with begging bowls," said the trader.
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