When ‘Mission Unlock’ Goes Bust..Because People Want To Go ‘Shopping’

With over 28,000 active coronavirus cases in the city, Mumbai is well and truly in the grip of the pandemic. And it looks like any attempts to return to normalcy in the country’s financial capital will have to be put off for another fortnight at least. Mumbai’s Commissioner of Police, Pranaya Ashok, imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) today, on July 1.

Under Section 144, movement of persons within Mumbai’s containment zones is prohibited (except for essential services), and there is a city-wide prohibition on movement between 9 pm and 5 am. The Commissioner’s declaration also included the condition that Section 144 would be in effect up till July 15, unless otherwise specified.

While the month of June began with high hopes for “Mission Begin Again” and the unlocking phase of Mumbai’s lockdown, the rising cases have scuppered those hopes. Section 144 being imposed in the city is only the formal acknowledgement of the fact that Mumbaikars have not been upholding the norms of social distancing.

While there were commenters on Twitter who expressed surprise or confusion at the imposition of Section 144, the signs were there to be seen all along.

As far back as May, when case numbers were a fraction of what they are today, citizens displayed a readiness to gather in public even though they were in the midst of a pandemic. A photo taken of a Starbucks outlet in Lokhandwala was the first evidence that people were not taking social distancing seriously.

Starbucks was only the beginning. In the first week of June, when state governments were exploring their options for rolling back the lockdown, Mumbai’s good folk descended on the Marine Drive promenade en masse. The police had to patrol the area to ensure crowds did not gather.

Just this weekend, another example of citizens ignoring social distancing was seen at a Zara store in Fort. The long, snaking queue saw people standing in groups, waiting for their turn at catching only a bargain, and hopefully not Covid-19.

Now, after Mumbaikars had their fun, stricter orders have arrived from the authorities, taking the city behind in its plan to unlock. This is why we can’t have nice things.

This article was first published in Arre