COVID-19 in Mumbai: Private bus operators grapple with new restrictions

Inter-state commute by private buses could get tricky soon. Not only would the journey include limited halts, you may have also to shell out more for it. Not because of a fare hike, but for the Rapid Antigen Test mandated on alighting at your destination.

Bus operators claim that the new guidelines have put unnecessary pressure on them. “As it is, our bus operations have taken a hit. Now, we have to make limited halts and skip a few of them, which has further caused inconvenience to both bus operators and passengers,” said a bus operator, on the condition of anonymity.

As per the new guidelines, private bus operators can halt at only two locations in the city after informing the disaster management authority (DMA). And, they can ply with 50 per cent seating capacity with no standing travellers. At the halts, alighting passengers shall be stamped on the hand by the operator for 14 days home quarantine. “We are ready to use a thermal scanner to monitor the temperature of the passengers. We will even stamp the passengers. But we cannot bear the cost of the RAT tests at the destination point where the passenger alights. Obviously, passengers will have to bear them,” said a member of Mumbai Bus Malak Sanghatana.

The rule states that the cost of the test shall be borne by the passenger or service provider. ‘If any operator is found to be flouting the guidelines, then DMA may levy a fine of Rs 10,000. Repeated defaults will lead to the cancellation of license to operate till the end of the notification of COVID-19 as a pandemic,’ reads the fine print of the guidelines.

Bus operators claim that this is nothing less than a lockdown. However, the government is not declaring it as one, as otherwise it will have to create reimbursement packages to bear their losses. At present, there are around 3000 or less private buses that are plying.

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