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Thiruvananthapuram, May 19, 2020
Even as lockdown 4 has commenced across the country, Kerala on Tuesday woke up to scenes unlike in the past two months, with offices and shops open and people moving about on the streets in their vehicles.
A change from the past two months was that many traffic lights, which had gone off across the state, were back to normal functioning.
Roads witnessed much more traffic, with the arrival of auto rickshaws and taxis and from Wednesday, with the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) announcing that it would begin operations within the 14 districts, traffic would get busier.
Another change is that the wearing of masks has become compulsory, with the police leaving nothing to chance and fining Rs 200 for anyone seen without a mask.
"We have been open all this while, but we are getting a lot more customers than what we were having in the past few weeks. People have been arriving from morning. We allow 10 people at a time inside our supermarket and others with tokens wait for their time. We try to clear all those inside quickly, so as to make the waiting time outside, less. Our stocks also are now arriving at a faster pace," said a manager of a leading supermarket in the state capital.
Attendance at the state secretariat which had picked up from May 11, after KSRTC started operating services, was more active with attendance peaking after travel norms were eased.
Barring the big malls, shops which were closed for long, used Tuesday to do cleaning so as to receive customers from tomorrow.
Barbers across the state were engaged in cleaning of equipment and their shops.
"None ever thought this lockdown would be so long. We have cleaned up everything. From tomorrow, we will start and rules say at a time not more than 2 should be inside the shop, so we will give appointment only and there won't be any walk-in customers. After each cutting is over, we will be cleaning everything and then take the next customer," said an upcountry saloon owner Mukesh.
Even though auto rickshaws were given the nod to operate, it turned out to be a disappointing session for many.
"Been in this business for three decades, but never ever had this big break. All what I got today is Rs 40. With only one passenger allowed it's going to be tough. We all wish and hope once the bus and trains start normal operations, we might get more passengers and until then, our misery will continue," lamented an auto driver at Kochi.
But the biggest crowding was witnessed before ration shops as the distribution of free kits worth Rs 1,000 of provisions and essential items to all is coming to a close.
"Ever since the lockdown began, we have had no rest and we are getting more and more people coming into our shops. We have asked people to wait for their turn and not crowd before the shops. Did anyone ever imagine two months back, life would go for a toss, like this? Look everyone has a mask, what a change, but our life is stressful as ever, as we never had a break," lamented a ration shop owner.
The police stations also saw a change as the new order has come where not all in a station need to report at the station, instead they can report to the place of duty and return home from there itself.
Police constables aged above 50 and pregnant women officials have been asked to carry out work which requires less physical energy.
The NORKA-Roots office in the state capital which does attestation of certificates for all those seeking employment abroad has announced that they would resume normal operations from Wednesday.
Overall, though a new order has started to roll, it's nowhere near what it was before March 22.