Mubarak Ansari & Zeenat Hussain
Pune, 24th May 2021: A consumer rights activist has lodged a complaint with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and other authorities against the penalty recovered by police for no reason during a lockdown.
Shriram Narayan Das Jhawar of Shukrawar Peth owns a grocery business and has been facing a lot of difficulties due to the obscure rules and regulations imposed during the COVID-19-induced lockdown. He informed that his son went to Market Yard at 11.10 am. He possessed the pass given to essential services and had a Shop Act license as well. However, the police still fined him Rs 500 for breaking the lockdown rules.
On Friday at around 2 pm, police fined Jhawar for riding double seat on a vehicle by saying that he had not followed the social distance. In another incident, around twenty days ago, the trader sent his employee to Market Yard to bring biscuit boxes, and the police fined him Rs 500 for carrying the goods on a two-wheeler.
One of his customers had a stomach ache and went to a doctor, the police stopped him at Ramoshi Chowk and fined him, and did not acknowledge the above reason, the trader informed.
Jhawar has suggested that the government should penalize the people who are roaming without a mask and spitting in public places instead of fining traders who are working hard to earn their bread and butter. He also suggested that instead of giving the penalty amount to the administration, the courts should give the money to hospitals like Sassoon Hospital for helping poor people.
“The administration has closed all shops except essential services, while at the same time, people can order whatever they want from online shopping platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, and Myntra. However, no trade union has raised its voice or filed a petition in the court yet,” said Jhawar, who is a member of the Grahak Panchayat and District Retailers Association.
‘Misbehaviour by police personnel’
Another person from Dhanori narrated his ordeal that occurred on May 15. “I was going to Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital from Dhanori with my mom who is a cancer patient and was tested positive for COVID-19 around 15 days ago. I was told by her doctor to visit the hospital after 15 days for further cancer treatment. My sister and my brother, who also tested positive for COVID-19 and were complaining of heartache, also decided to go to visit the hospital. We were stopped at every checkpoint from Dhanori to JM Road. We were allowed to go ahead by the police after checking documents.
When we reached JM Road, our car was surrounded by police personnel. They were very aggressive, disrespectful, and were misbehaving verbally with us. They disregarded our medical documents. They initially demanded Rs 5,000 in cash which later came down to Rs 2,000. When I told them that we will use Google Pay for online transaction to pay the fine, they fined us Rs 1000. The police personnel were not ready to share their badge numbers and deleted the video that I filmed of the incident themselves. I even told them to come with us to the hospital if they felt we were lying but in vain,” recalled the man, who is from another state and cannot read or understand Marathi.
‘Insensitivity while collecting fines’
Rahul Shitole, who works with a private company, said that he was fined Rs 500 on May 12 at Maldhakka Chowk while returning home from his workplace. “I had my identity card as well as a letter from my office. Even then, the policeman did not allow me to go and fined Rs 500”, he said.
On the second occasion, Shitole was fined when he had gone for immersing ashes (asthi visarjan) of his grandmother. “I was on a two-wheeler with a friend and had the receipt from a crematorium but the policemen at Sancheti Hospital Chowk did not accept it. I was asked to pay a fine of Rs 500”, he recalled the ‘insensitive’ attitude of some police personnel.
‘Complain if you are being wrongly penalized’
When contacted, Pune Police Commissioner Amitabh Gupta said that people are allowed to purchase essential commodities between 7 am to 11 am on weekdays after which, a strict curfew is being implemented across the city. “During the curfew, people are allowed to travel only in exceptional cases like a medical emergency, and while going for a vaccination with proper proof. If somebody believes that he/she is being penalized wrongly, they can contact senior police officers. We respond to complaints we get on Twitter also,” the commissioner said.