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Unlock 1.0: Social distancing norms flouted with impunity

City forgets coronavirus threat, major traffic crossroads see huge beelines of private vehicles.

Statesman News Service | Kolkata |

Social distancing norms were flouted at several places as large number of citizens in Kolkata, hit the city streets while beelines of private vehicles threw traffic out of gear.

The first day of the Unlock 1.0 brought back memories of the logjam before Durga Puja. The city that had retreated into a shell for the past two months, seemed to have forgotten the threats of the deadly virus which is taking the number of positive cases up, each day.

With countable number of private buses and fewer routes of government buses, crowds of office goers and people desiring to reopen their shops, were seen at city bus stops.

City’s major traffic points were seen with beelines of private four wheelers and two wheelers stuck in a logjam for kilometres. While office goers driving their cars near E.M Bypass, Jessore Road, Central Avenue, VIP Road, Brabourne Road and so on, remained stuck for more than half an hour, those depending on the public transport, had a harrowing time before reaching their destination.

“After waiting for at least 5-7 minutes each at various traffic signals, I managed to reach Chingdihatta Crossing where I was stuck for at least 25 minutes,” said Srijita Roy, an employee of an IT sector company in Salt Lake.

“My office is a 20 minutes’ drive from my house, but today, it took me over an hour to report at my workplace. The experience was nightmarish and I cannot imagine the situation if this continues for few more days,” added the IT professional.

Another scenario was that of the commuters heading for their workplace and found struggling to get into buses at Rashbehari Avenue, Esplanade, New Market, Sealdah and Science City. Large numbers of passengers crowded at bus stops flouting the norms of social distancing.

With passengers allowed only up to the seating capacity, the day was difficult for those boarding buses from the depots while it was worse for the others trying to get into one, in the middle of the route.

Even the 130 odd private buses and 40 operational routes of the state government, could not bring much respite to the commuters.

“I missed three buses before being able to board one with lot of difficulties,” said Ruchira Gupta, “After waiting for over 40 minutes and missing buses, only being able to reach office was on my mind and norms of COVID-19 became a second priority,” she claimed.

Meanwhile, the resumption of ferry services after more than two months at the ghats of River Hooghly came as a major help to the commuters availing waterways transport. State run vessels operated with 40 percent commuters between 8am to 6pm at an interval of one hour.

Before boarding the vessels thermal scanning of the commuters was carried and hand sanitisers were being provided.

The morning hours saw lesser number of passengers and the first vessel from Babughat ferried only commuter.

The footfall, however, increased with every passing hour and the vessel carried 10 passengers on its return journey from Howrah.

Private bus operators: A section of private bus operators in West Bengal has decided to resume services on different routes in the city and in the districts from Tuesday.

The buses will, however, run on an experimental basis and depending on the financial viability, a decision will be taken later on continuation of services, All Bengal Bus Minibus Samannoy Samity (coordination committee) general secretary Rahul Chatterjee said.

The state government has said buses will be allowed to carry passengers as per the seating capacity, while refusing to increase fares.

“We will evaluate the situation after a few days on whether expenses incurred for running the buses can be met with a limited number of passengers and take a decision on continuation thereafter,” Chatterjee said.