On August 2, the Maharashtra government made yet another modification to the Break the Chain guidelines; yet local trains shall largely remain unavailable for a majority of the public. The struggles are real for these people who have to balance their livelihood and lives at the same time. The Maharashtra government is taking a slow approach towards opening up and smooth transition for allowing more people to travel in local trains --- the lifeline of Mumbai. The Free Press Journal takes a look into the lives of such people who are struggling to keep their lives afloat and earn their livelihood in these pandemic times.
Meet Kailash Verma, a resident of Andheri (E) who trades in garments and is also a social worker fighting for the rights of suburban rail passengers. All through the lockdown in both first and second waves of Covid-19; Verma has been trying to keep his work alive and make ends meet. He has to travel all the way till Kalbadevi, Bhuleshwar, Mantralaya and around South Mumbai for work.
However, for him, local train travel is still disallowed as he doesn’t fall under any category as specified by the Maharashtra government to travel in trains. “I am not allowed to travel by local train. And so, I have to change multiple modes of transportation to reach my destination. Most importantly, I leave at least 2-hours prior to the time of appointment or to my office,” said Verma.
For instance to reach south Mumbai at 10 am, Verma leaves around 8 am and walks to the bus stop that is 10-12 minutes away. “If I leave at 8.30 am then it will take me three hours to reach south Mumbai. The traffic on road is immense and frustrating,” added Verma. By local train his journey time used to be less than an hour even if he took the slow train.
He at times has to change two buses if he doesn’t get the desired BEST bus number. After reaching south Mumbai, Verma then takes a cab to reach anywhere around. His travel costs have gone up substantially too as he spends Rs 400-600 per day depending on the mode of transit. This used to be barely less than Rs 250 per month for a season pass for travelling in the general compartment of Western Railways.
His business is also suffering as he is unable to travel as desired. “Travel cost has become an important expenditure. I urge the government to allow more people to travel by local train. At least those who are fully vaccinated with two doses,” said Verma. He didn’t elaborate on the losses incurred in his business nor on his monthly earnings but stated that the cost of living had become dearer for him.
By evening, he tries to leave for home by 4 pm or so or after 8.30 pm when the vehicular traffic on road is less or manageable and not so difficult on travel. Nowadays he leaves his home for work only three days a week.
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