A couple of days ago, liquor stores opened after around a month and a half in the national capital. The loss of revenue to the state governments has been the main argument to justify the relaxation. While the central and state governments have approached the pandemic response with caution thus far, constantly reminding people about the importance of social distancing norms, these cautions were conspicuous by their absence.
So, what was it? Could no one predict crowds of hundreds descending upon the small liquor vends? Did they assume people would forget years of conditioning to fight and jostle at the counter? Did they simply assume everything and everyone would take care of themselves?
It seems like this was a great opportunity to try novel solutions. First of all, owners of the liquor vends ought to have been consulted in creating a plan for opening day. Perhaps a system of tokens/ appointments may have been created making use of cell phones or apps to limit the number of people visiting the locations of liquor vends. Alternatively, like the governments of Punjab and Chhattisgarh, home delivery could be considered. Lastly, at least the police should have been briefed and prepared to handle the crowds (there's an argument here as well for the police in the national capital to come under the authority of the state government of Delhi).
[Update: Delhi Government has announced a system of e-tokens for liquor purchase to prevent overcrowding]
Instead, we had a situation where the sacrifices made by people on the front lines of the battle against the pandemic, the patience and forbearance of all citizens during lockdown, and indignities suffered by people stranded in different parts of the country were insulted by a reckless and ill-planned move. All it would take is one infected person in the midst of these people to undo weeks of a massive, concerted attempt to flatten the curve.
A broad discussion is desperately required on how to plan the phased reopening of trade and commerce. Are we ready for what comes next? Or are we going to wing it?