Hoards of trucks, sellers and customers were seen gathering at Vashi's APMC market as it reopened on Saturday morning.
Traders admitted that they had not seen such a large quantity of produce in the past 5-7 years.
Naturally, with the large gathering, it became difficult for the administration, including the cops to manage the crowds and the vehicles. The APMC administration allowed 100 trucks inside at one go to avoid unnecessary ruckus.
Earlier on Friday, the wholesale market received 500 trucks loaded with vegetables . Traders said that there was a huge crowd inside the wholesale market as a huge number of retailers had turned up. “Since the market was officially closed on March 25 and after state government’s assurance, it was decided to reopen on Saturday, retailers from Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai turned up,” said Shankar Pingle, director of the vegetable market.
Like Friday, on Saturday too safety measures took a beating as social distancing norm was not followed. Hardly 20 per cent of people had mask and mostly roaming the market without taking precautionary measures. The state government had given assurance that it would provide all safety measures in the market premises. With the arrival of over 1000 trucks loaded with vegetables, however, the safety measures went for a toss.
Traders reiterated that this is a risk for everyone and this will only spread the deadly virus. “We are forced to open the market despite the risk of contamination of the deadly virus,” said a trader, requesting anonymity. He added that social distancing was not feasible at the APMC, where there was no limit to the number of visitors.Like Friday, the administration formed a queue to enter the market, to ensure due precautions were followed.
Another APMC official, requesting anonymity, said there was a fear that in the event of truck drivers coming from remote villages got infected, there was a possibility that people living in those remote villages would also get affected upon the drivers' return. “Without vegetables, people can live. But, if the virus spreads, it will be difficult for everyone,” said the official.
The market administration had taken a suo motu decision and closed the market from March 25. But to ensure the smooth flow of essential commodities, the state government assured that adequate safety measures would be adopted in the market. During a meeting on Wednesday, it was decided to reopen the market in a phased manner.
The huge supply derailed the vegetable price and most of the vegetables were seen being sold under Rs 30 per kg. However, the retailers did not find buyers due to lockdown. “Very people are coming to buy vegetables due to lockdown and also fear gripped of the deadly virus,” said Pramod Patil, a vegetable retailer in Belapur.