Day 4 of 'Mission Begin Again' was another day of suffering for the 10 per cent of Mumbaikars reporting to work from Monday. This, despite the fact that the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking, was operating at close to 70 per cent of its fleet strength. For the fourth day in a row, there were long queues at bus stops on Thursday. While talking to Team FPJ, commuters conceded that there was an increase in the frequency of buses but the number of commuters too had simultaneously risen and social distancing continued to be forgotten.
Life after lockdown has become more challenging. It is hard for women going to work. With only buses to transport us, the commute has become time-consuming. It takes one hour to reach office and in the evening, it is harder to return home because of the curfew. No sooner does one step into one's home, the first thing to do is take a hot bath, sanitise bag and footwear. I must remember not to touch or hug my son as soon as I walk in through the door, since I have been outside. I wish offices offered us the choice to work from home.
(Founder, Sai Leela Foundation, Mumbai)
I have my own NGO and we are involved in some social activities like supplying essential safety kits, immunity-boosting medicines, food packets for police, healthcare workers and so on. My team members use their own vehicles. In our personal vehicles, we can be assured of safety as opposed to app-based cab services or going by BEST buses. Now that private firms have been allowed to restart, at 10 per cent strength, I have been seeing huge crowds in buses. Travelling in such jam-packed buses can only increase the risk of infection. It is better to travel in one's own vehicle though it is a costly affair and one must spend time in traffic. Why unnecessarily risk one's life by using public transport?
I am particularly scared as it is the rainy season and the government has chosen this time to resume services. If everything were to start like nothing has happened, without first getting a grip on coronavirus cases, it will be a huge disaster. Tracing infected people will become a huge task and will only further burden the already overloaded medical infrastructure. Therefore, though it will inconvenient, I believe public transport should not be started, as it will only worsen the situation. Only for essential service workers should public transport service be made available.
(Accounts manager in an MNC)
My work commute, from Thane to Dadar, used to be a simple 45-minute journey before the lockdown, but now, it has turned into a nightmarish two hours, which does not even include the hours spent wating for a bus. After the morning commute, it is a horror we must confront again in the evening. Although our office has asked us to come on alternate days, I do not look forward to it simply because of the long, tiresome and exhausting commute.
It has become extremely tiring to commute because buses are packed, while Ola or Uber taxis take too long. It took me almost four hours to reach my home in Jogeshwari from my workplace at CSMT in an Ola cab, due to slow-moving traffic. My office has offered to reimburse the expense but, what is the point of commuting to work if we have to spend four hours just travelling one way, every day. It is both mentally and physically exhausting as the roads are packed with private vehicles and social distancing has gone for a toss."
With the suburban railways being non-operational, commuting has become indeed difficult. At BEST stops, there are longer queues and social distancing norms are hardly followed. However, as the days progress, it appears as though the frequency of buses are being increased. But at the same time, the number of commuters too has increased. Things are difficult now, but I don't think that things will be normal unless the suburban trains are made operational.