M. A. Siraj
Bengaluru: With lockdown entering into 0.2 phase, Karnataka has turned into a vast hub of voluntary work and action to fight hunger. The thoroughfares of Bengaluru are mainly being crisscrossed by NGO grocery vans, ambulances and volunteers carrying ration kits on scooters.
The City Police has come down heavily against the violators and lockdown is being implemented with a rather heavy hand. Last week the City Police placed in public domain an app for applying special passes for those members of the public who needed to move out of homes. An applicant could submit his application after filing the online form in nine clicks. Guess the number of applications the police received? Forty-four lakh people applied for the passes, almost 36% of the city population. It may serve as an indication of desperation building up among people locked in homes and boredom. But it was also a tribute to the IT city and its tech-savvy denizens. It was as if the entire households that were equipped with smart phones were keen to come out onto the streets. The city police would have none of this ‘nonsense.’ Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao said, the Police have promptly rejected all the applications. Under pressure to enforce lockdown, it had no wherewithal to scrutinize the need and genuineness of the applicants and their need to be out. It has however retained the 1.87 lakh transit passes which were issued in phase 0.1 to organizations and individuals attached to essential services.
The City Corporation has declared two localities within the city, namely Goripalya and JJR Nagar in Msyore Road area as ‘Red Zones’ barricading the neighbourhoods due to detection of five positive cases. Curiously, the two localities are dominantly inhabited by Muslims and are densely populated. The streets and approach roads to the area have been sealed and people are prohibited from coming onto the streets. Packed food is being supplied at their doorsteps.
The Mercy Mission, an umbrella organization of around 20 NGOs, has distributed around 25,000 ration kits in the city among poor families or cluster of labourers stranded due to nationwide Lockdown triggered by Covid-19 pandemic. Of these, 7,500 ration kits were contributed by Zomato and Rotary International. The Mission is covering the Bengaluru municipal limits and its immediate outskirts. By 20th days since commencement of its work, the Mission had made six community kitchens operational. Around 50 volunteers are working between 9 am till 10 pm to reach the poor and the hungry with food packets. Ration kits, each weighing nearly 18 kgs and containing food items priced at over a thousand of rupees are being handed over to households in shanties and low income neighbourhoods. Several other Muslim NGOs such as Al-Faiz Foundation and Ashra Trust too have chipped into the ration distribution work and police help is being sought in managing the aspirants.
According to Mr. Ameen-e-Mudassar, an activist related with the Mission, procuring police passes for the relief material carriers is a major challenge. In one case, a volunteer was thrashed by a cop. However, the concerned police inspector has apologized for the misdemeanor by the cop under his police station. Though the distribution work has been streamlined with creation of a tech platform, duplication of requests and supplies remain a ticklish issue. The Mission is now seeking photos and Aadhar copy as evidence for residence. However, duplication is not altogether ruled out.
The State has so far reported 279 positive cases and the death toll has risen to 12. With the fasting month of Ramazan approaching fast, the State Government has issued an advisory for the month. The ban on congregation for five times prayers will remain in place. The azan will be called in low decibles. The five-time prayers and taraweeh prayers will be performed within the mosques by the pesh imam and the staff related with the mosque management. Outsiders will not be allowed in. The mosques will be allowed to announce the timings to breaking of fast (Iftaar) and end of pre-dawn meals (Sehri). Eateries will not be allowed to come up around the mosques around Iftaar and no collective Iftaar will be organized. Maulana Sagheer Ahmed Rashadi, Ameer Shariat of Karnataka, has also appealed to the people to follow the official guidelines in order to fight the pandemic. The advisory is for the period of Lockdown 0.2 and it is to be seen if any relaxation will be shown after May 3, 2020.