MUMBAI: Stepping up action against motorists out for “non-permitted and non-essential” travel, Mumbai traffic police have seized over 2,000 vehicles since Tuesday. Police had issued a warning, via their Twitter handle earlier this week, that strict legal action would be taken against those violating the rules. But while the cops only claimed to be enforcing guidelines set by the state, netizens protested against “unclear directions” and confusion amid the city unlocking.
“Can you please clarify once again, what is defined as “non-permitted” & “non-essential” vehicular movement? Seeing Western Express Highway traffic, I’m wondering if you’re currently “allowing” only “permitted” or “essential” movement!,” tweeted activist Sandeep Ohri, reacting to Mumbai police’s tweet.
Government guidelines say movement for non-essential activities such as shopping and outdoor exercise will be restricted within the neighbourhood. “This means someone living in Worli cannot travel to a mall in Mulund because he prefers that to the malls in his neighbourhood. Collective restraint is the need of the hour if we want to fight the coronavirus,” said an IPS officer. The guidelines add unrestricted movement will be permitted only for attending workplaces and humanitarian requirements, including medical reasons.
“We have permanent nakabandis at some locations where vehicles are checked routinely. But if we find that the number of people out for nonpermitted travel is increasing, we have no option but to step up nakabandis,” said the officer. Police have also been cracking down on those travelling in greater numbers than those permitted. For instance, three-wheelers can carry two passengers plus the driver, while four-wheelers can carry three plus the driver. Over 250 vehicles were seized on Tuesday, 592 on Wednesday and 633 on Thursday. On Friday, till 7pm, over 550 vehicles were seized, most in western suburbs.
In June, police had faced criticism when they announced legal action against those venturing beyond 2km from home, except for essentials and going to office. Within a week, they had to alter the order and replace the word “2km” with “neighbourhood”.
“One day they make a rule of 2kms….next day that rule is scrapped, now no more traveling….no clear guidelines, only random tweets!,” tweeted Abhishek Ahuja.
“It’s a complete failure of communication and expected considering the level of mismanagement which happens,” tweeted R Chordekar.
TIMES VIEW: Mumbai police, who had to withdraw their 2km rule not too long ago, have yet again started seizing vehicles, creating confusion and uncertainty in the minds of citizens over whether the city is truly in the ‘unlocking’ phase or back to its April-May stringent lockdown mode. Impounding of vehicles is unfair and smacks of arbitrariness. Police, and the state, must facilitate movement instead of hampering it while at the time pushing for social distancing norms.