Unlock 1.0: Limited public transport leaves Mumbai citizens hassled

Updated: Jun 27, 2020, 08:36 IST | Rajendra B Aklekar | Mumbai

Citizens and experts say ground situation badly hit, call for opening up of more transport options for the public in a safe manner

Commuters at Churchgate station after Unlock 1.0 was announced earlier this month. File pics/Bipin Kokate
Commuters at Churchgate station after Unlock 1.0 was announced earlier this month. File pics/Bipin Kokate

While the government is beginning to allow more and more offices and shops to remain open now, limited public transport opportunities and differences in policies at the state and Union government levels have left citizens hassled. The issue of public transport came to the fore on Thursday when the Ministry of Railways extended their lockdown of trains till August 12.

And this with no mention of Mumbai's local trains that have been out of bounds for common people. Outstation trains have also been running for a while now but since they are not allowed to stop at stations within Maharashtra as directed by the state government, travellers said they feel more frustrated.

"There will be chaos next month due to this. The Ganapati festival will see huge crowds going to Konkan. But with this type of travel arrangement, they will not be able to take the train and it will lead to chaos on the highways. That's when the government will wake up. How can the state government be so short-sighted?" activist Akshay Mahapadi remarked.

"Staggered opening of services and dual governance are leading to confusion on the ground. The authorities need to have a comprehensive plan. Right now we have fractured governance with no coordination," said Ajit Shenoy of Mumbai Mobility Forum.

"You want to show that you are pro-economy by opening up but don't want to take the blame by starting public transportation for all. Of course, there are no easy answers. You need to formulate a policy which shall do both: reduce the number of commuters and plan for their safe commute," public policy (transport) expert Paresh Rawal said.

Commuters at Churchgate station earlier this month. They say there is no social distancing inside trains. PIC/BIPIN KOKATECommuters at Churchgate station earlier this month. They say there is no social distancing inside trains

Rawal added that since railway is a Central government subject, it has started its inter-state services. "Now if the Maharashtra government is confident of managing commuter tracking then it has to ask Indian Railways to start halts within the state. The key is to be able to backtrack the movement of commuters in case of Corona positive cases," he added.

Railway officials said the circular dated June 25 was just about the extension of cancellation of services and had nothing about local trains.

Social distancing only at stations

"Confusion outside railway stations is now becoming a daily affair with lack of clarity on who exactly is allowed and who is not onboard the local trains. Many still come to the station hoping that they might be able to take one but they are not allowed," general secretary of Federation of Suburban Railway Passengers' Association Lata Argade said in a detailed appeal to Maharashtra Chief Minister, state transport minister, health minister and state chief secretary.

She also said that there is crowding inside local trains and people staying beyond Kalyan are facing many issues in the absence of local train services.

"There is demand for increasing the frequency of trains to ensure social distancing. Proper queues and protocols are being maintained at station entry points but scenes inside trains are chaotic," passenger association member Shailesh Goyal said. There are also limitations on running of BEST buses and free plying of auto/taxis in Mumbai despite a number of activities opening up.

Task Force meeting on autos

The Maharashtra government on Friday took their first meeting of the task force with Mumbai Automen's Union seeking opening up of auto-rickshaws without any conditions from June 28. "Since this was the first meeting, they had called for suggestions and we have recommended the opening of autos unconditionally from June 28. Other demands include providing R10,000 for automen as they have been facing losses, waiver of EMIs, and release of all autos seized," Mumbai Automen Union leader Shashank Sharad Rao, present at the meeting said.

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