Maharashtra: Locals to partially restart next week
Govt also mulling allowing religious places to open, provided they can observe COVID protocols
The state government is willing to try reopening the suburban train network for all commuters, albeit partially in the beginning. The trains will be in addition to the locals being operated currently for essential service workers. If everything falls in place, the extra services will start operating in a week's time.
Sources said the matter was discussed at a meeting of the COVID-19 task force with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday. The CM asked authorities to coordinate with the railways and take utmost caution in planning the reopening of the commute for all. The Central and Western railways have said in the past that, if asked at a short notice, they would be in a position to roll out more trains.
mid-day had reported on August 28 how the Central Railway (CR) has made all arrangements to resume trains at even a day's notice. Officials had then said that they are only waiting for the state and central government's directives. The select local trains running on CR, as of now, halt at about 24 stations.
"Considering the risks involved in opening up travel for all and the rising graph of COVID cases, the matter was given serious thought. We thought that additional trains could be put in service to accommodate commuters who travel long distance," said an expert who is privy to the deliberations. He said the city's only Metro line didn't come up for discussion.
String of passenger protests
Agitated over the strenuous commute amid the pandemic, there have been several passenger protests. Commuters have been demanding permission to travel in trains citing inordinate delays caused by road travel and the time spent standing in queues. On Thursday, the state public transport company MSRTC decided to run more buses for commuters in the MMR.
Another person who knows about the development said, "Though fraught with risks, the additional trains would have to be put in service sooner or later. As of now, the approved commuters have been given QR codes to board the trains. The people who were included for approval are being given the codes and may be allowed to travel by next week," he said.
Thinner crowd seen at Dadar station amid COVID-19. PIC/SURESH KARKERA
A senior officer said a plan is being worked out. "The details will be shared soon. But it will be a staggered arrangement."
For religious places
In another move, the government is mulling to allow places of worship to reopen but with a condition that they should have the infrastructure and manpower to manage crowds. Temples like Siddhivinayak in Mumbai, Sai Baba in Shirdi, Gajanan Maharaj in Shegaon and Vitthal-Rakhumai in Pandharpur, where a crowd management system is already built. If conducted in the usual manner, it would violate the COVID-19 protocol. Temple trusts will have to amend the existing procedure, said a government official and those without arrangement will have to create systems. The mosque management will also have to regulate the crowd if it wants the place to reopen. Some well-equipped temple trust may go for online registration of devotees and follow a coding system to allow entry.
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