Police in Bengal and Punjab have resorted to assault and punishment to ensure citizens adhere to social distancing norms urged by medical experts and the government to stop the spread of the infectious COVID-19 virus, particularly at crowded market places where people are rushing to stock up with the start of the 21-day lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.
In a video circulated online by Gurpreet Singh Dhillon, a Sikh of Indian origin who is Regional Councillor of the city of Brampton in the UK, police in Punjab can be seen lathi-charging people who break the state-imposed curfew, as onlookers chuckle in amusement.
In other videos cops wearing handkerchiefs around their faces, in lieu of face masks for protection against the virus, and waving lathis can be seen forcing people to roll along or crawl on the road.
Currently in Punjab, India if you break the government imposed curfew the police is forcing you to do squats while chanting "We are enemies of society. We cannot sit at home". #Covid19India#COVID19pic.twitter.com/zikTjHIFzz— Gurpreet Singh Dhillon (@gurpreetdhillon) March 24, 2020
"I am hopeful Captain Amarinder Singh can advise the Punjab Police to find other means to enforce the curfew," Gurpreet Dhillon wrote along with the videos, tagging Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
Here we see people being forced to roll over or threatened to be beaten. I am hopeful @capt_amarinder can advise the @PunjabPoliceInd to find other means to enforce the curfew. pic.twitter.com/5gOtAzAhCP— Gurpreet Singh Dhillon (@gurpreetdhillon) March 24, 2020
Similar scenes emerged from Bengal's Malda district, where cops forced men to perform squats, while holding the tips of their ears, as punishment for failing to maintain minimum distance. Punjab cops did that too, as people chanted: "We are enemies of society. We cannot sit at home".
The videos of Punjab Police's action comes on the day Chief Minister Amarinder Singh praised some of his officers for distributing vegetables to those in need.
However, authorities in other parts of the country have hit upon more novel ways of ensuring social distancing; videos and photographs of grocery stores and milk booths from Gujarat and Puducherry show people lining up inside equidistant circles and squares and waiting for their turn to buy goods.
India went under a 21-day "total lockdown", starting Tuesday midnight, in an effort to stop the spread of the contagious COVID-19 virus, which has infected nearly 600 and killed at least 10 people.
In Punjab, which has reported 29 active COVID-19 cases and recorded one death, the government has announced a strict curfew and warned of legal action against those violating either it or the home quarantine imposed by authorities.
The curfew was relaxed between 6 am and 9 am to allow buying of milk and vegetables, and then from 8 am to 11 am to allow buying of groceries and medicines, according to news agency PTI.
Mamata Banerjee's Bengal, meanwhile, which announced a full lockdown on Tuesday till March 31, reported two fresh COVID-19 cases to take the total to nine. It too has reported one death.
Both the centre and state governments have repeatedly said there will be no shortage of essential goods, but panic buying was witnessed in several parts of the country after the "total lockdown".
This morning Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal made a similar announcement, urging people to respect the lockdown and stay inside their home during this period.
Under the lockdown, and curfew imposed in several states, people have been prohibited from leaving their homes, except in an emergency, to minimise contact and stop the COVID-19 virus that spreads via droplets of bodily fluid when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Only shops selling essential goods and services - groceries, vegetables and medicines - have been allowed to remain open.
Worldwide the virus, which originated in China's Wuhan district in December last year, has killed over 16,300 people and infected over 3.75 lakh others.