KUNAL CHATTERJEE, Kolkata: As the deadline of 5 pm loomed, hundreds of thousands of migrant labourers who had come to make a living in Kolkata packed buses out of the city.
From early morning on Monday, buses carrying hundreds of people, many of them on the rooftop, made their way from the Esplanade terminus to districts like South 24-Parganas, North 24-Parganas, Malda, Murshidabad, Bankura and beyond. Dilip Pramanik, a bus driver on the Esplanade-Kakdwip route, said, “I have been doing this journey for the last 30 years, but never have I seen such panic. There were more than a thousand people waiting at the terminus when I reached there. All the tickets were instantly sold out. The bus that I drive has only 58 seats, but I had to allow at least over a hundred passengers. Sixty people were on the roof.”
The markets in Kolkata and district towns witnessed panic buying since the early hours of Monday.There was so much rush that it took just 15 minutes for a truck of vegetables to get exhausted. Ashis Boral, a vegetable-seller said that this is the fifth truck that has come from the godown carrying vegetables. “Some trucks have even not been allowed to reach the market as people from different areas stopped it on the way and took it to their area in Kabardanga. The prices have also shot up considerably as panicked people were buying 10 to 20 times more than what they actually need.”
Most supermarkets in and around Kolkata were packed with buyers. And most were stocking up for at least 15 days. Such is the scare of coronavirus that even roadside tea stall-owners are not allowing customers to come near the shops. Many have barricaded their stalls with ropes. Ranjit Seal, a tea-seller, said, “When the government is repeatedly asking people to keep a safe distance from others, we must take protection. I will surely serve them tea till 5 pm but from a distance. No one is allowed to enter the shop like other days.”