COVID-19: Lockdown adds to commuting woes of employees engaged in essential services

With limited buses and no metro services, people dependent on public transport have to hire autos and taxis or rely on friends and relatives to drop them to work

Forty-five-year-old Eshwarappa, a casual labourer with Karnataka Milk Federation, travels every day from Katriguppe in south Bengaluru to a factory at Dairy Circle. As an essential worker, he is allowed to travel during the partial lockdown. But with limited bus services and no other form of public transport, he finds it hard to reach his place of work. He has borrowed a cycle from a friend for the commute to the factory.

Employees attached to hospitals, government offices, pharmacies, and other essential services are finding the daily commute increasingly difficult, with many criticising the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) for running only limited buses.

Sateesha K., who works as a pharmacist, complained of the long wait for a bus. “As the BMTC is operating only skeletal services, one has to wait for a long time. If they add more buses connecting hospitals, it will help people like us.”

C.N. Manjunath, director of Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences told The Hindu that for the benefit of the staff, who do not have private vehicles, a bus has been arranged to ferry them from different routes depending on their shift timings. “Commuting is an issue during the lockdown. There is a need to provide city bus services for those carrying out essential services as listed by the Karnataka government.”

Deputy Chief Minister and Transport Minister Laxman Savadi recently announced that all the four Road Transport Corporations have been instructed to run buses as required for the daily commute of people working in the health sector, police department and others. At present, BMTC is operating 156 buses while the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) is running 50-odd buses.

A BMTC official said that they were running ‘enough buses to meet the needs of those in essential services’. “We have also provided bus services connecting Victoria hospital, where hundreds of COVID-19 patients are getting treatment, to Bidadi, Taverekere, K.R. Puram, Bannerghatta and other locations,” the official said adding there is no proposal to increase the number of services.

Long wait for autos

People who were earlier depending on Namma Metro have to shell out more money to book auto or taxi for their commute.

Rama Mohan who works in a private hospital on Bannerghatta Road, said, “There is hardly any bus plying on the road. Reaching the workplace on time has become a big task, and taking an auto is quite expensive. People who do not have private vehicles are finding it very difficult.”

J. Vijayalakshmi, who works with the railways, relied on Namma Metro to commute from Yelachenahalli to Majestic. With no metro service, she has started booking autos on aggregator platforms, but said that the wait time is long. “Sometimes, I have to ask my husband to drop me,” she said.

Family members and friends, who are willing to drop people to work, say that without ID proof, they are often pulled up by the police. “You need to show a railway ticket or identity card, which is fine when the person you’re dropping is in the car. But if the police stop you when you’re returning back alone, you don’t have any proof to explain why you’re out during the lockdown,” said a taxi driver.

Passengers reach rail stations well in advance

The lack of public transport is inconveniencing rail passengers. As a precaution, hundreds of passengers who have train tickets to leave the city are arriving at stations hours in advance.

Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) Ashok Kumar Verma said, “Footfall at railway stations has not increased. However, people who have confirmed tickets are reaching stations in advance, sometimes even a day before. There are instances of people coming in the morning to board a train in the evening. On normal days, passengers would arrive 30 minutes prior to departure of their train.”

South Western Railway is running trains as per demand. “If there are more passengers on the waiting list, additional services are introduced. On Monday, we are running an additional train from Mysuru to Danapur,” he added.

BMTC is operating some ‘Vayu Vajra’ services connecting Kempegowda International Airport during the lockdown.

Source: Read Full Article