New Delhi, Apr 19: Long, serpentine queues were seen outside liquor shops in Delhi soon after Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's announcement of a six-day lockdown on Monday, with tipplers braving the sun for hours and occasionally breaking into heated arguments.
Many lost patience as the mercury climbed and some even tried to jump queues, leading to minor disagreements and altercations at some places.
An association of liquor companies, meanwhile, came out with a statement urging the Delhi government to start home delivery of alcoholic beverages in the city, on the lines of Maharashtra, to ease the rush.
Waiting for his turn in one such queue in south Delhi, Ravinder Saxena said he wanted to stock up as he believed there are chances that the lockdown will be extended further.
"Liquor helps keep negative thinking out of your mind," he said, while waiting for his turn.
"There are many people at the shop, and I will try to buy at least six to eight bottles for myself," Saxena added.
Earlier in the day, Kejriwal announced a six-day lockdown from 10 pm on Monday till 5 am on April 26, which he said was necessary to deal with the rising number of COVID-19 cases, as the city's health system was stretched to its limits.
The national capital's health system is stretched, although it has not collapsed yet, the chief minister said, adding that despite around 25,500 cases coming up every day, Delhi's health system is still functioning.
Bharat Sharma, a resident of Dilshad Garden, said the moment he came to know about the lockdown, he reached the local liquor shop along with a friend.
"We waited for more than one hour and somehow managed to get three bottles," he added.
With similar reports from across the city, the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC) issued a statement saying, "What we saw today was panic reaction from the public, driven by their memory of lockdown extensions last year. For lakhs of people all over India, alcohol is part of regular consumption basket that they do not wish to be deprived of."
"While we hope that the public and shopkeepers in Delhi adhere to COVID-appropriate behaviour, steps to reassure public would help. Decision of Maharashtra to allow home delivery of liquor, for example, has helped contained panic reaction to lockdown there. We urge the Delhi government to think of such steps," Vinod Giri, CIABC director general, said in the statement.
A lot of people waiting in the queues said they bought liquor at almost double the rates last year and wanted to avoid a similar situation this time.
"During the last lockdown, we bought liquor bottles at doubled rates from the black market. Now, there is another lockdown, and seeing the current situation, one cannot say for how many days it will last," said Jagdish Samora of Malviya Nagar while standing in a queue at a liquor shop.
"I will buy six whiskey bottles," he added.
Announcing the lockdown in the city earlier in the day, Kejriwal said it was necessary to prevent the health system of Delhi from collapsing under the increasing number of patients as there is an acute shortage of medicines, beds, ICUs and oxygen.
In its order, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority said up to 50 people will be permitted to attend weddings, but they will have to show soft or hard copies of the marriage invitation cards.
For funerals, 20 people will be allowed, it said.
It further said essential services will be allowed during the lockdown, but private offices and other establishments like shops, malls, weekly markets, manufacturing units, educational and coaching institutes, cinema halls, restaurants, bars, assembly halls, auditoriums, public parks, sport complexes, gyms, spas, barber shops, saloons and beauty parlours will remain closed.