On day one of the nationwide lockdown, newspapers report on the issues faced for essential services and by those providing them. But there is also tragic news on another front — the ISIS attack on a gurdwara in Kabul also makes headlines.
Pink papers report on the issues faced by e-commerce firms as ground reality indicate restrictions in movement for them despite being essential services. And the papers offer some relief for the poor with reports of the Modi government’s plan to protect the poor from the lockdown.
The lead story in The Times of India, `On day of disruptions, Centre, state govts seek to ensure stable supplies’ reports, “As India went into a 21-day lockdown from Wednesday, the Centre, states and local administrations scrambled to resolve disruptions in essential services, especially delivery of food, groceries and medicines, with reports streaming in from different parts of the country of police obstructing, and even beating up, distribution executives – prompting e-grocers BigBasket and Grofers and online retail major Flipkart to stop accepting fresh orders.”
Also note the single column report,’2k samples show no community transmission yet’. It reports, “Indian Council of Medical Research has informed that ‘as of now, there is no community transmission’, health ministry joint undersecretary Lav Agarwal said.”
The tragic turn of events in Afghanistan: ‘8 women among 25 killed in Kabul gurdwara attack’. TOI reports, “Twenty five devotees, including eight women, were killed and eight others injured in one of the deadliest attacks on the minority Sikh community in Afghanistan at Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib in capital Kabul on Wednesday morning. Agencies said a suicide bomber struck the gurdwara and the so-called Islamic State, which has targeted Sikhs earlier in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement.”
The Indian Express reports under the banner headline ‘Day 1: Cracking the supply chain’ that “Govt steps in after retailers and e-com players stopped’’. It notes how “confusion prevailed among local authorities and police over exemptions, causing major disruptions in last-minute supply of food.”
Another report (`No transport and no money, migrants take long road home’) tackles the other looming crisis — migrant labour: “Left stranded by a nationwide lockdown, which has halted all public transport, hundreds of labourers devoid of work have started leaving big cities on foot.”
Since the lockdown has affected the poor and daily wage labourers the most there’s some help around the corner. A report (‘On table: Cash transfers for unorganised workers , 7 kgs subsidised grain per person’) details, “While the government may use money available with certain labour welfare funds, a limited fiscal space would be its biggest constraint.”
The anchor story is a hopeful one in times of a pandemic taking over the country (‘Recovered Mumbai, Pune cases return home to cheers by neighbours’). “Jivandhar, 51, and Prashanti Awati, 44, spent a sleepless night Tuesday at Pune’s Naidu Hospital waiting for an all-clear. The state’s first positive cases, they finally got the second result confirming them negative and ending their 14-day isolation.”
Here, too, essential items are the focus. Hindustan Times reports, ‘SCRAMBLE FOR SUPPLIES ON DAY 1’. The daily notes, “Essential items run scarce as shop shelves emptied out by hoarders, fresh stocks delayed due to curbs.”
HT gives prominence to news from the US in, “US set to go for $2tn stimulus to boost economy”. According to the paper, “The Trump administration struck a deal with Senate Democrats and Republicans on a historic rescue package with more than $2 trillion in spending and tax breaks to bolster the hobbled US economy and fund a nationwide effort to stem the coronavirus.”
And in the continuing list of celebrities who have tested positive for Covid-19 is British heir to the throne, Prince Charles.
The Hindu‘s lead story is Prime Minister Modi. The paper reports, “Interacting with people in his Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi through videoconference, Mr. Modi said: ‘The Mahabharata war was won in 18 days, this war the whole country is fighting against coronavirus will take 21 days’.”
Shifting the focus to Delhi, here’s important news for consumers in Delhi, CM Kejriwal announced there will be “e-passes for key services”. According to Hindu, “Citizens engaged in essential services in Delhi can call 1031 on WhatsApp to avail e-passes to be able to commute to work…”
And a politically controversial move is put on hold. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, “Census, NPR exercise put off over coronavirus scare”. The daily reports, “Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the first phase of Census 2021 and updating of the National Population Register (NPR) that was to begin on April 1 has been ‘postponed until further orders’, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in a statement on Wednesday.”
The Telegraph’s lead has ‘Troubling questions about lockdown’, in its interview with Dr Thekkekara Jacob John, who is reportedly an authority on paediatrics and virology.
In the interview, John notes, “The lockdown will certainly slow down the virus transmission in the larger community. But we have no idea how many people in the country have already been infected. Even while remaining home, if a few are infectious, they could pass on the virus to their household members.”
With the photograph of an emaciated boy holding a discarded fruit, the Kolkata daily reports, “What we cannot lock down: hunger”. It says, “…. the Centre did not announce any immediate project to address the hunger of the marginalised. Instead, the Centre appeared to be passing the buck to the states for the time being.”
The New Indian Express leads with the plight of motorists and the confusions about essential services on ground. The lead story (`Cop breaks the mould as teary appeal melts motorists’ heart’) tells a touching story of a traffic policeman standing with folded hands “begging motorists not to come out of their houses”.
Another report (`More grains to curb anxiety’) details how the “Centre sought to allay the anxiety of around 80 crore people enrolled with ration shops by increasing their monthly quota of subsidised food grains by 2 kgs each — from 5kgs to 7 kgs.”
Mumbai Mirror rings the alarm bells today — “NOT LONGER CHASING ONLY THE WELL-HEELED, Wily virus moves into slum, chawls”, we think they meant ‘no longer’. The paper reports, “Just when the city seemed to be gaining an upper hand in the battle against the sneaky Covid-19, the virus has opened a new front – the heaving slums and chawls of Mumbai. While the infection so far had appeared to be chasing only the well healed with travel histories, four cases in less than a week – a 65-year-old resident of a chawl in Parel, a 37-year-old resident of Kalina’s Jambhlipada slum, a 25-year-old man from a slum cluster in Ghatkopar, and a 68-year-old woman from the same slum — have presented the health authorities with a messy new challenge.”
On a sobering note, the paper also reported on one of the city’s favorite visitors — Chef Floyd Cardoz who ran the restaurants Bombay Canteen and O Pedro succumbed to Covid-19 Wednesday. In a detailed article about the chef, the paper notes, “Despite his many years away from home working in New York’s cutting-edge and cut-throat restaurant scene, Floyd managed to retain a lightness of spirit that easily shows in his approach to dining. At TBC, O Pedro and even the new Bombay Sweet Shop, people come not just for the excellent food but also because it’s fun. He proved that showcasing and elevating regional Indian cuisine doesn’t require a three-course, wine-paired meal that you must dress up for. All it takes is some creativity and the humblest of foods can wow the most discerning or jaded palates.”
The Economic Times leads with ‘On Day 1, Govt Moves to Fix Supply Chain Hiccups’, noting “Central and state authorities were forced to step in to ensure that the supply of essentials such as food and medicines didn’t come to a complete halt” as delivery staff complaints of physical intimidation.
On a better notes, a report (`Market Recovery Continues for 2nd Day on US Stimulus’) says “The stock market jumped 6.6% on Wednesday notching its best one-day gain in almost 11 years as renewed global optimism after the agreement on the $2 trillion US fiscal stimulus increased hopes that the Indian government will follow suit with a large package of its own.”
And the government does have a plan ahead for the poor — `India Works on 3-Month Plan, to Stagger Dole’, the paper notes that the plan is to be “pre-emptive and early on the health side, but be timely and effective with the fiscal interventions, depending on how the virus spreads in the coming three weeks.”
Business Standard remains focused on e-commerce firms and the issues they face (`E-com firms set to resume work after police assurance’) adding, “The Delhi government issued a statement saying they are actively engaging with e-commerce portals and were issuing passes so agents were able to commute seamlessly.”
As the country goes into lockdown mode, the government’s plan to protect its poor makes it to the front page (`Rs 60k-crore income support plan for poor in works’). The report says “The scheme could mean transferring of Rs 5,000-6,000 in the bank accounts of 80-100 million poor families.”