Delhi queues up at mandis to stock up for the hibernation ahead

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Police block roads out of slum colonies to prevent daily-wagers from sneaking out

People pluck mango leaves on the first day of Navratri on Wednesday, which also coincided with the beginning of a 21-day nationwide lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus. (DC Photo)

New Delhi: As India went into a 21-day countrywide lockdown, people in Delhi queued up at milk booths and vegetable stores disregarding coronavirus precautions to pick up daily essentials.

Wednesday being the first day of Navratri, when people buy mango leaves, flowers and fruits to herald the spring, the crush was all the more urgent. The Gazipur vegetable mandi opened at 3 am and closed its gates at 7.30 am.

Locality-level vegetable and grocery stores are being allowed to do business during 8-10 am in morning and for two hours in the evening.  Medical stores are exempt.

Sanitary staff and those involved in essential services were allowed to go to their work places but police blocked roads and lanes emerging from slums and smaller colonies to prevent domestic helps and daily-wagers from sneaking out to work. 

The normally busy railway stations in New Delhi were deserted and streets that just hours before had been bustling fell eerily silent.

"Delhi looks like a ghost town,'' said Nishank Gupta, a lawyer. "I have never seen the city so quiet before.''

India has about 500 cases of the virus, but prime minister Narendra Modi said in his address to the nation last night that if he didn't take action now it could set the country back decades.