Q. Even the individuals who have been vaccinated for both the doses are not allowed to travel in local trains, how much has it impacted the labourers and daily-wage workers?
The first lockdown went on for a long time, after a few months we were struck with another lockdown which was called as 'break the chain.' Now the government has announced relaxations on various grounds but they are of no use if the locals are not allowed to travel by the local trains. From Churchgate to Dahanu, and from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus to Panvel, this stretch of around 120 kms is the place where innumerable people live. They don't live in main Mumbai but travel into the city to earn a living. If there is no availability of local trains for them then how are they supposed to reach work?
Q. Especially in the rainy season, how difficult does it get for the Mumbaikars to travel?
It is not possible for small scale workers to travel 3-4 hours daily in busses. They don't earn more than 14-18k, its not commercially viable for them to spend a hefty amount on travel and we all know the condition of roads in Mumbai during the rainy season. The Maharashtra govt did provide relief in the lockdown, but unfortunately, it worked out only for the ones who have cars.
Q. What are your demands from the government?
We are not asking the govt to open the services for all. We are only asking them to allow the citizens who have been vaccinated for both the doses to travel by local trains. Otherwise, what is the whole purpose of vaccinating people? If they still can't work, if they still can't earn the daily bread, then what is the point of vaccinating them? We stand with the Maharashtra govt, all Mumbaikars do, but that doesn't mean we should be forced to sleep empty stomach.
Q. Has anyone from the government responded to your queries?
See firstly, nobody wants to go out if its unsafe, but we have to as we have families to feed. The state as well the central government need to resolve this issue. We reached out to the state govt, we wrote to the Chief Minister, we urged other leaders like Aditya Thackeray, Ajit Pawar, Salim Shaikh, we urged the Prime Minister on Twitter to resolve this issue but nobody replied. Vaccinated people are allowed to travel outside of India, people from the other states can come into Maharashtra if they are vaccinated, but the people of Mumbai cannot travel from one point to another within the city, if this isn't hypocrisy, then what is?
Q. Are you happy with the way High Court has played it's part in the case so far?
We had a lot of expectations from the High Court but we were returned empty handed. 'Tarik pe tarik' is what we are getting from the court. Only the court can reprimand the state and central govt and we have a lot of faith in our legal system, but we aren't getting a positive result. If things don't improve in the coming few days, then the poor will keep suffering. I want to ask, who will be responsible for their death if the poor sorts no other way than to commit suicide?
Q. Are different passenger associations planning a large-scale protest on 15th August?
15th August is a big day for all of us. We don't want to organize a protest which might harm anyone as we are aware that coronavirus hasn't vanished. Moreover, country comes first for all of us. Some of us have also opined that any kind of agitation must not be organized on 15th August. However, I must tell you that people are getting anxious and when they have nowhere to go, when they lose hope, they get carried away in anger. We are hopeful that our problems will be resolved before 15th August.