Chief Minister of India’s Telangana state issues shoot at sight orders for defying virus curfew

Security personnel patrol a deserted street during the first day of a 21-day nationwide lockdown in Siliguri on Wednesday. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 26 March 2020

Chief Minister of India’s Telangana state issues shoot at sight orders for defying virus curfew

  • Experts worry about impact of lockdown on economically marginalized people

NEW DELHI: Hours after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a nationwide lockdown for 21 days on Tuesday night, the southern state of Telangana sent a stronger warning saying authorities would issue “shoot on sight” orders if the curfew was not observed.

Telangana Chief Minister K C Rao’s statement came in the wake of several people defying the lockdown by venturing out onto the streets.

“Please don’t let it come to this. The administration cannot stop everyone, and I will have to call in the army or issue ‘shoot on sight’ orders,” Rao said in a press briefing late on Tuesday night, hours after Modi’s address to the nation where he decreed a three-week lockdown for 1.3 billion people.

He further requested people to “stay at home” as, otherwise “the entire society will get hurt. Nobody should step out of their homes strictly after 7 a.m. 

“If they need something, they can dial 100 and the police will help them. If need be, we will also shut down petrol pumps,” Rao said.

Political analysts said that the shoot order reflected “the frustration of the government at a time when an unmanageable crisis” was unfolding.

“The government has woken up late to the escalating coronavirus crisis. It now wants to control it somehow. But you cannot stop people from stepping out on the street who survive on daily wages,” Prof. Venkat Narayan of Telangana-based Warangal University told Arab News.

By Wednesday, Telangana had reported 36 positive cases compared to the all-India figure of 562 – a jump of 19 cases since Tuesday.

Close on its heels was another southern state, Tamil Nadu, which also registered its first death due to the virus, taking the total toll across India to 11.

Meanwhile, many places across India witnessed panic buying after Tuesday’s announcement of a nationwide lockdown.

“We were already preparing ourselves for a tough time ahead, but the sudden announcement of the nationwide lockdown on Tuesday night has taken us by surprise. On top of that the government’s harsh measures to control mobility on the street has compelled us to stock rations,” Ganesh Kumar, a resident of Mokama in the eastern state of Bihar, told Arab News.

The government, however, assured people that essential services would be maintained and that there was no need to panic.

“People don’t need to worry about essential services. The government will ensure a supply of essential items,” Modi said in his address to the nation.

Some experts said they were worried about the impact of the lockdown on economically marginalized people.

“We cannot allow a virus safety protocol only for the middle-class who have homes and secure jobs and force the poor to stay hungry, walk hundreds of kilometers to their villages, with the police beating them. The government must find ways to save us all, rich and poor together,” Delhi-based social activist Harsh Mander said.

Prashant Kishore, a Patna-based political activist,said: “We are paying the price for being behind the curve. The decision to lockdown India may be right, but 21 days might be a bit too long.

“But then this is the price one pays for being behind the curve. With the shaky preparedness to deal with the Covid 19 crisis and very little to safeguard the poor, we could be staring at some tough days ahead,” he said.

Citing jobs, Trump claims victory over virus, economic collapse

Updated 6 min 40 sec ago

Citing jobs, Trump claims victory over virus, economic collapse

  • US tops COVID-19 mortality rally with 108,000 people confirmed dead
  • Trump says more than 1 million Americans would have died had he not acted

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump effectively claimed victory over the economic crisis and COVID-19 on Friday as well as major progress against racial inequality, heartily embracing a better-than-expected jobs report in hopes of convincing a discouraged nation he deserves another four years in office.
In lengthy White House remarks amid sweeping social unrest, a still-rising virus death toll and Depression-level unemployment, the Republican president focused on what he said was improvement in all areas.
He was quick to seize the positive jobs report at a time when his political standing is at one of the weakest points of his presidency less than five months before the general election. Just 2 in 10 voters believe the country is headed in the right direction, a Monmouth University poll found earlier in the week.
The president also addressed the protests, which have calmed in recent days, that followed the death of George Floyd, the black man who died last week when a white police officer knelt for minutes on his neck.
Claiming improvements everywhere, Trump said, “Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country. ... This is a great, great day in terms of equality.”
Trump condemned “what happened last week,” said no other president has done as much for black Americans, and declared that an economic rebound was “the greatest thing that can happen for race relations.”
Putting words in the dead man’s mouth drew quick criticism, including from likely presidential foe Joe Biden, who said it was “despicable.” The Trump campaign said any reports saying Trump was contending Floyd would be praising the economic news were “wrong, purposefully misrepresented, and maliciously crafted.”
A few blocks away, city workers painted a huge “Black Lives Matter” sign on 16th Street leading to the White House.
Politically, few things matter more to Trump’s future than the state of the US economy, which was all but shut down by state governments this spring to prevent greater spread of the deadly coronavirus. Defying health experts, the president has aggressively encouraged states to re-open and has assailed state leaders by name who resist.
At the same time, he’s taken an uneven approach to explosive racial tensions in the wake of Floyd’s death. As he has in recent days, Trump on Friday offered a sympathetic message to Floyd in one breath and lashed out at protests in his name the next.
Local governments “have to dominate the streets,” Trump said. “You can’t let what’s happening happen.”
The president spoke in the Rose Garden after the Labor Department said that US employers added 2.5 million workers to their payrolls last month. Economists had been expecting them instead to slash 8 million jobs in continuing fallout from the pandemic.
The jobless rate, at 13.3%, is still on par with what the nation witnessed during the Great Depression. And for the second straight month, the Labor Department acknowledged making errors in counting the unemployed during the virus outbreak, saying the real figure is worse than the numbers indicate.
Still, after weeks of dire predictions by economists that unemployment in May could hit 20% or more, the news was seen as evidence that the collapse may have bottomed out in April.
Friday’s report made for some tricky reaction gymnastics for Trump’s Democratic election opponent, Biden, who sought to contrast the improving figures with the fact that millions of Americans are still out of work. The high jobless rate, he said, is due to the Trump administration mishandling the response to the pandemic.
“Let’s be clear about something: The depth of this jobs crisis is not attributable to an act of God but to a failure of a president,” Biden declared in a Delaware speech shortly after Trump spoke.
The presumptive Democratic nominee said Trump was patting himself on the back as America faces some of its sternest challenges ever.
“It’s time for him to step out of his own bunker, take a look around at the consequences,” Biden said.
It’s unclear how many jobs that were lost as a result of the pandemic are permanently gone or whether the reopenings in states will create a second surge of COVID-19 deaths. In addition, the report from mid-May doesn’t reflect the effect that protests across the nation have had on business.
Many economists digging into the jobs report saw a struggle ahead after the burst of hiring last month.
Friday’s report reflected the benefits of nearly $3 trillion in government aid instead of an organic return to normal. Only one of every nine jobs lost because of the pandemic has been recovered, and the specter of corporate bankruptcies hangs over the recovery.
Much of the growth came from 2.7 million workers who were temporarily laid-off going back to their jobs. This likely reflected $510 billion in forgivable loans from the Payroll Protection Program to nearly 4.5 million employers — an administration initiative that helped push the unemployment rate down to 13.3% from 14.7% in April. African American unemployment rose slightly to 16.8 percent.
Late Friday, Trump signed legislation to add new flexibility to the PPP, giving business owners more flexibility to use taxpayer subsidies and extending the life of the program.
As the money from the PPP runs out, there could be another round of layoffs, warned Sung Won Sohn, an economist at Loyola Marymount University.
“There will be continuing residual fear and uncertainty,” Sohn said.
Trump on Friday defended his handling of the pandemic, contending that more than 1 million Americans would have died had he not acted. More than 108,000 people are confirmed to have lost their lives due to the coronavirus, according to a count from Johns Hopkins University.
Now, though, Trump said states and cities should be lifting remaining restrictions. “I don’t know why they continue to lock down,” he said of some jurisdictions that have maintained closings.
Former South Carolina Gov. and Rep. Mark Sanford, a Republican who briefly mounted a primary challenge to Trump last year, dismissed any employment gain due to federal deficit spending.
“What we have right now is federal policy aimed solely at boosting numbers that obviously would help in a reelection effort,” Sanford said in an interview. “We’re literally buying jobs.”
But there was little sign of concern among Trump and his Republican allies in Washington.
“This shows that what we’ve been doing is right,” Trump said of the jobs numbers. He added: “Today is probably the greatest comeback in American history.”
He pitched himself as key to a “rocket ship” rebound that would fail only if he doesn’t win reelection.
“I’m telling you next year, unless something happens or the wrong people get in here, this will turn around,” Trump said.