Now, Maharashtra to ‘mark’ people in home-quarantine!

Corona scare sends seafood prices skyrocketing in Mumbai; chicken crashes

Agency Report | Mumbai | 16 March, 2020 | 11:10 PM

In an unprecedented move, the Maharashtra government decides to 'tag' all those people who have been sent to 100 per cent 'home quarantine' in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

Accordingly, the left hand of all persons shunted to 100 per cent home-quarantine will be ‘stamped’ to identify them easily if they mingle with the general public.

The decision, taken at a meeting of top officials chaired by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, has been described as a precautionary measure after 39 cases of COVID-19 have been detected in the state – highest in India – and around seven suspected patients had fled from treatment centres in the past couple of days.

“It is not a crime if somebody is infected by COVID-19. They must be given proper medical treatment and psychological support. The Epidemic Diseases Act has been invoked in the interest of the people and the district administration must create awareness on it,” Thackeray asserted.

He directed that all facilities must be provided for persons under ‘home-quarantine’ and also at the other treatment centres, where the existing patients are responding to treatment.

Health Minister Rajesh Tope said that on the lines of the indelible ink applied to voters during elections, a stamp will be imprinted on the left hand indicating “that person/patient is under compulsory home-quarantine” till March 31.

“This will help other people identify them if they break home-quarantine and mix among the public during their home-isolation period,” Tope said.

Additionally, entry to Mantralaya — the state government headquarters and a major public hub — shall be banned till March 31, except for those on official duties, days after the Maharashtra Legislature Budget Session was curtailed by a week in view of the coronavirus precautions.

All upcoming local bodies and civic elections have been postponed by three months, the shutdown of academic institutions in urban centres has been extended to cover all educational institutions even in rural areas.

Addressing a review meeting, Thackeray announced a special Rs 45-crore fund to tackle the pandemic and ordered all district collectors and health authorities to take stringent steps to prevent crowding at various places including religious destinations.

The Divisional Commissioners at Konkan and Pune will be given Rs 15 and Rs 10 crore respectively, while Rs 5 crore shall be disbursed to Nagpur, Amravati, Aurangabad and Nashik.

The money would be utilized to provide various facilities at the quarantine centres including food, television sets, indoor games like carrom, etc., and district authorities have been authorized to make emergency purchases of ventilators or required medical equipment.

While religious activities can be continued unhindered, there must be absolutely no crowds of devotees at any religious place, the CM said.

He appealed that those who have been advised ‘home-quarantine’ must voluntarily refrain from stepping out in public to prevent any risk to others.

Taking a cue, Mumbai’s famed 220-year old Siddhivinayak Temple decided to shut down for an “indefinite period” though its health department which provides medical aid to the needy persons will function as usual.

Shree Siddhivinayak Ganapati Temple Trust Chairman and actor Aadesh Bandekar said that the decision has been taken as a precaution against coronavirus and the popular place of worship will be closed “until further orders”.

Simultaneously, the Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust (SSST) has ‘advised’ all Saibaba ‘palkhis’ (palanquin processions) coming from all over Maharashtra and other parts of the country to defer or cancel their processions for the time being.

Thackeray said that as per the blanket ban, no permission would be given to any organization, political party or event management companies for holding any programme/events where crowds would gather.

He also appealed to religious leaders of various faiths and elected representatives to use their “influence” and create awareness among the people to comply with the government norms.

In the wake of rumours about consumption of chicken and mutton amid the coronavirus scare across the country, sea-food prices have suddenly skyrocketed in the city and surroundings areas in the past one week.

Both freshwater and sea fish — procured from rivers, inland fisheries, or the Arabian Sea and the creeks dotting the Maharashtra coast – have been hit badly as prices have shot up by an average 50-60 per cent in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.

This is having serious repercussions on the cost of fish items served by specialized ‘sea-food restaurants’ and regular eateries where it is one of the options, though prices have not been hiked so far.

Akhil Maharashtra Machhimar Kriti Samit President Damodar Tandel attributes many reasons for the price rise which has got compounded due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

“Monsoon 2019 got extended on the Konkan coast with very rough weather, besides the massive floods in several districts last year. Since Diwali, the usual catch has sunk because of LED lights used by big trawlers and purse seine nets,” rued Tandel.

The ‘Bhai Bhandarkar Maha Machimar Vishwastanidhi Trust’ Chairman Vijay Bhandarkar said that for the past two years, the fishermen are in the same predicament as the farmers of Maharashtra due to various reasons.

“First, the Oil and Natural Gas Commission keeps expanding and encroaching upon fishing territories. Second, the maritime traffic in the Arabian Sea has gone up considerably since it’s a key global route and all vessels discharge their wastes here,” Bhandarkar told IANS.

Added to this is the massive pollution near the coastal areas with untreated sewage discharged from major cities or towns on the entire coastal Maharashtra, besides Gujarat and Karnataka which has driven away marine life.

“According to our estimates, the catch has dwindled by more than 70 per cent, the costs remain constant, so prices go up accordingly. This has also hit exporters of fish, plus the dry fish market which is extremely popular among the people in coastal regions,” Bhandarkar explained.

A fisherwoman from Andheri market said that in the past 10 days or so, retail fish prices have zoomed by more than 40 per cent and are shunned by potential customers.

“Medium-sized pomfrets pair sells for around Rs 1,200-Rs 1,400, small-sized Bombay Duck and mackerels go for Rs 200-Rs 300 per portion. Surmai and ‘ravas’ have virtually disappeared or command price of Rs 700-1,000, and prawns between Rs 500-Rs 800 per portion, depending on size,” said fisherwoman Gauri Patil.

“Freshwater fish like Rohu and Katla also sell between Rs 250-Rs 400 per kg as per size, making it unaffordable. It’s difficult to source fish from the wholesale markets where they are ‘booked’ by hotels and restaurants,” said Dahisar housewife Priyanka Gowale.

On the other hand, poultry business suffers due to rumours, which has pushed customers to consume sea food.

A Kandivali poultry seller Jabbar Shaikh said that owing to the rumours over coronavirus, videos of culling of hens and chicks at various places, unfounded fears have been created in public mind, leading to a sharp drop in demand for fresh chicken and eggs.

“Retail sales have plummeted by as much as 60 per cent and even prices have come down by 50 per cent. Until the coronavirus scare goes away, customers won’t come back,” lamented Shaikh.

For instance, chicken prices hover around Rs 100, down from Rs 220, but there are few takers as people consciously opt for fresh or frozen sea food.

Tandel and Bhandarkar say there are around 20,000 big and small fishing boats and trawlers which operate on the state’s coast off Mumbai, Thane, Palghar, Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri and Raigad, besides a few in the local rivers, dams, lakes and other water bodies. (IANS)