With relaxations being granted for public movement during the fourth phase of the lockdown, there was a significant increase in the number of vehicles on roads and traffic remained heavy at some places, especially the city borders.
Public transport resumed in Delhi on Tuesday with buses, auto-rickshaws and taxis plying on the road, albeit with a limited number of passengers.
The Delhi Transport Corporation and Cluster buses resumed services with social-distancing norms and safety measures in place like use of sanitisers and masks to check the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
TRANSPORT TROUBLES IN CITY
Early morning chaos was witnessed on the roads as commuters were left waiting for DTC buses and auto drivers quoted high prices after more than 50 days in lockdown.
As offices and markets reopened, a large number of commuters told India Today TV that reaching their workplace was “very difficult”.
Till 10 am, the frequency of buses in the Capital remained low.
Many of the Green DTC buses are on “special duty”- for cops, healthcare personnel, to transport migrants to shelter homes and to transport rail passengers to the respective district centres.
“We have been waiting but for the past 30 minutes the only buses we have seen are those special duty buses which refuse to take passengers,” said Mukesh, an agitated commuter waiting at Kashmere Gate for a bus to go to Patel Nagar.
Shop assistant Dolly, who works in Connaught Place, gave up on waiting for public transport, in a rush to reach work on time. “I waited for a bus for a long time, but then I took a lift from a passing car till Panchkuian Marg, walked for some time, and then got a lift from my co-worker. It is not really safe, but how else was I supposed to reach the store on time?” said Dolly. Agitation by bus drivers was a major reason behind the morning woes.
Upset over not being paid salaries, the DTC Orange cluster bus service drivers refused to take the buses out on the road and held a ‘chakka jam’ at bus depots in Najafgarh and Dwarka. The agitation was mirrored at other bus depots in the city as well.
The cluster buses are run by private operators on specific DTC routes. By the time the officials and the contractors negotiated with the drivers, the early morning work rush was over. At present, sources say, that some money was paid upfront to the drivers, while the government has promised to pay full salaries in 15 days.
Even for the government-run buses – Green, Red, and Blue – there was a long delay in completing the clerical and maintenance that would allow drivers to take the buses out from the depots.
“The DTC service was closed during the lockdown so when the drivers reached the depots in the morning, it took time to complete the maintenance and clerical work,” a source told India Today TV.
In the absence of buses, auto wallahs made hay and refused to run by meter. “We have not earned anything for the last two months. And now we cannot take more than one passenger at a time. Meter rates are too low,” said Ramesh.
Battery rickshaw operators also complained about the passenger restrictions. “We usually take 5 or 6 passengers and they pay Rs 10 per person. Now we cannot take more than 2 people and they are fighting with us if we ask them to pay Rs 30 or even Rs 20 each. How are we supposed to earn?” complained Raju, even as a harassed commuter started shouting at him at the Kashmere Gate bus stand. Meanwhile, the commuters were left fuming.
“I left my house in Mandoli at 7 am. The owner of the Karol Bagh shop where I work told me to be there by 9. It took more than 45 minutes to find a bus to get me to Kashmere Gate, and now I have been standing at the bus stop waiting for a bus for an hour. There is no way I will reach work on time,” said Shyam, a worried commuter.
By evening, however, more buses and autos were plying on the roads. People who may have had trouble getting to work were able to reach home in relative comfort.
Despite relaxations from lockdown by the Delhi government, the borders of neighbouring city of Noida remained sealed and nobody is allowed to enter without a valid pass, issued by the local administration.
As the confusion prevailed, many commuters from Delhi tried to enter Noida without a pass and were intercepted by police and sent back. Hundreds of commuters from Delhi lined up at DND, Kalindi Kunj and Sector 14 borders of Noida. The cops, however, didn’t allow anyone to enter the city without a valid pass.
After the relaxations were announced by Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal on Monday, the Noida administration issued a clarification on early Tuesday morning about “status-quo” at the borders.
“This is to inform all concerned that, status quo shall be maintained between Delhi-Noida border for now. We have sought instructions from the state government as regards to implementations,” the joint statement by the District Magistrate and CP of Gautam Budh Nagar (Noida) read. A group of commuters on their way to Agra tried to enter Noida through DND but were not allowed.
“I have a pass issued by the Delhi government but the Noida police said that I need a pass issued from the Noida administration to cross the city. I need to cross the city to reach my hometown. I will apply for a local pass to enter Noida online,” said Raj Kumar, a commuter.
(With inputs from Sushant Mehra)