Liquor-store crowds show the masses still don’t understand the importance of social distancing in fighting Covid-19
After 43 days of lockdown, some states/UTs, including Delhi, allowed resumption of liquor sales. This was done to net some revenue by way of excise duties on liquor, with nearly all other sources having dried off because of the Covid-19 lockdown. However, visuals of crowding by hundreds of people outside liquor stores from across the country, and the abject lack of distancing, show how poorly aware of, or indifferent to, corona-risks the masses are.
To ensure proper social distancing, the police had to resort to lathicharge in some areas. Delhi has announced a 70% impost on MRP of liquor. This shows that if India is to ease the lockdown and fight Covid-19, it needs to have stricter action against violation of social distancing.
The Centre and the state governments need to implement steep fines for the violation of social distancing in public spaces, making the establishments catering for the people assembled liable as well. For instance, a bank branch should be fined if social distancing is not observed inside its premises.
This would shift some onus to the establishments on ensuring safe behaviour by clients. The incident of stone-pelting at police personnel in Howrah, West Bengal, shows many Indians are still grappling with the idea of a lockdown and that the police cannot always resort to disciplining. However, there is a need to set up surveillance, perhaps supplement human surveillance with technology such as drone surveillance or even monitoring crowds by looking at mobile signal/GPS data and then imposing steep fines if social distancing is found to have been violated.