Shopping malls, restaurants and other establishments reopened in West Bengal today after a gap of over two months while over 2,000 private and mini buses along with more than 1000 government buses failed to meet the demand of public transport as a large number of office-goers and workers resumed work today.
People came out on the streets of Kolkata in large numbers, with many flouting the social-distancing norms.
Traffic snarls were reported from several areas. Government offices started operating with a 70-per cent attendance and most private offices and establishments recommenced near-normal functioning. Though government buses were out in full strength, private buses were less in number, adding to the woes of commuters, as other public modes of transport like metro railway and local trains are yet to recommence operations.
“Around 25 to 30 per cent of the 6,000-odd private buses that ply in the city and suburbs are back on the roads,” Joint Council of Bus Syndicates’ general secretary Tapan Banerjee said.
Beelines of commuters at bus stops, crowds of passengers jostling to get into buses letting go the norms of social distancing, was a common sight at several places of the city.
The state government operated around 1200 buses with services starting as early as 5 a.m.
In government buses, social distancing was seen being maintained, however, in several private buses passengers more than the seating capacity were seen. The transport department, in concerted efforts of the cops, cracked whip on the operators ferrying passengers more than the seating capacity and also cross checked if the commuters were being charged with higher fares.
“After missing four buses, I was finally able to board a bus for my office in Salt Lake Sector V,” said an IT professional who spent over 40 minutes at Rashbehari Crossing waiting to get a bus. Higher fares than the existing chart, being demanded by operators of private and buses, was an additional agony of the commuters. Commuters travelling between Metiabruz and Esplanade were being charged a fare of rupees 25 in a mini bus.
In order to avoid public transport woes, many people who opted for pooled fourwheelers to reach their destination or rode two-wheelers to offices.
Meanwhile, mall officials claimed that standard operating procedures (SOPs) are in place such as bringing down the seating capacity at food courts Shop owners were seen standing in queues at several malls in the city to undergo health and safety checks.
70 per cent employees report for work at govt office: A semblance of normalcy returned to govt offices in West Bengal after nearly 70 per cent of the staff reported for duty on Monday as part of the unwinding of the lockdown restrictions in place for over two months. According to a senior government official at the state secretariat ‘Nabanna’, rosters have been prepared for the employees, who would be attending offices on alternate days for now, while strictly adhering to social distancing norms to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the official said.
Bus/ferry services to Kolkata from suburbs: The state water-ways and roadways department have taken steps to provide staterun bus and ferry services to Kolkata from different suburban towns of the district. Already in phases, state bus services are being initiated from Arambagh, Tarkeswar, Chinsurah, Serampore, Konnagar and Uttarpara, as per the directive of the state government as most of the government and non-government offices and establishements have opened. The local train services remains suspended though.
Bus services from Arambagh and Tarakeswar have already started with four pairs of buses running between Chinsurah and Kolkata. They follow the GT road, passing through all the towns, on their way to Esplanade. Serampore MLA Dr Sudipta Roy mentioned that bus services from Serampore bus terminus will start from tomorrow while today bus services from Konnagar- Uttarpara to Kolkata was flagged off by Uttarpara civic body administration. The ferry services from Uttarpara Kheyaghat via shipping, Belur, Kutighat, Cossipore, Baghbazar, Howrah and Fairly was initiated from today.