Telangana declares 10-day lockdown starting May 12

Published : May 11, 2021 19:15 IST

The scene at Charminar in the old city of Hyderabad on the evening of May 10. Photo: By Special Arrangement

After being indecisive for weeks on whether to impose a lockdown in the State in the wake of a surge in COVID-19 cases, Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao finally bit the bullet on May 11. In a meeting chaired by the Chief Minister, the State Cabinet decided to impose a 10-day lockdown beginning May 12. However, there will be a relaxation in the lockdown between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. every day.

Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have been the only southern States not to have gone in for a total lockdown. While Telangana has been implementing a night curfew for the past two weeks, Andhra Pradesh has been implementing a partial lockdown from noon until 6 a.m the next day.

The Telangana Chief Minister and Etela Rajender, Telangana’s erstwhile Health Minister, have repeated themselves hoarse claiming that a lockdown only affects the livelihoods of lakhs of people apart from impacting the State’s revenues. Rajender has told Frontline on numerous occasions that the State had suffered a loss of Rs.24,000 crore on account of the lockdown imposed in 2020. For his part, Chandrashekhar Rao has repeated several times that the experience of the other States who have imposed a lockdown has not been very encouraging since there has been no improvement in the COVID-19 situation or a decline in the number of COVID-19 positive cases.

Hardly a week ago, Somesh Kumar, the Telangana Chief Secretary, allayed fears of an imminent lockdown, stating that the government was not in favour of such measures as it was “unlikely to serve the purpose”. Of course, the Chief Secretary had also claimed that the COVID-19 situation in Telangana was much better than in many other States, including Telangana’s neighbours.

But with the number of COVID-19 positive cases rising sharply and with pressure from various quarters, the government had little choice but to impose a lockdown.

The Telangana High Court has repeatedly taken the government to task on several occasions for its lack of a meaningful response to the COVID-19 crisis. On April 19, the High Court had even given a de facto ultimatum to the State government to consider an extension of the night curfew hours and a weekend lockdown.

Just hours before the Telangana government’s May 11 announcement declaring a lockdown, a bench comprising Chief Justice Hima Kohli and Justice B. Vijaysen Reddy came down heavily on the police and the State government, observing that they were attempting to present a rosy picture of “coronavirus [being] under control” and that everything was “hunky-dory” while the ground reality was “completely different”.

Directing Anjani Kumar, V.C. Sajjanar, and Mahesh Bhagwat, Police Commissioners of Hyderabad, Cyberabad and Rachakonda respectively, and the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Commissioner to put their “heads together”, the bench said it was particularly concerned with the situation in the State capital Hyderabad’s old city. Citing reports in the media, the Chief Justice said that rules such as physical distancing and wearing of face masks were not being observed in Hyderabad, especially in the old city and the police were remaining mute spectators. Said the Chief Justice: “We will hold the top officials responsible for this…the buck should stop at the top officer…What is the local police doing when social distancing is not followed, face masks are not worn?”

The court took strong exception to the police not checking religious congregations in different parts of the State capital. The Chief Justice said that “heads of the officers will roll” if the court’s directions on the steps to check the spread of coronavirus were not enforced. The court has also expressed its dissatisfaction over the poor testing numbers in the State despite its earlier instructions to increase the rate of reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing.

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