Change to Mumbai reboot: Passenger unions urge govt to stagger work hours

Mumbai: Keeping in mind the increasing COVID-19 cases in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) and the importance of social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a railway passengers’ association has not only urged the Maharashtra Chief Minister to implement staggered office hours in the city, but also to divide Mumbai city and suburban areas into seven parts and fix a separate weekly day off from work for each part.

Rajesh Gangavane, chief spokesperson of the Upnagariya Railway Pravasi Sangh told The Free Press Journal that the passenger association had urged the Chief Minister to fix staggered office timings and weekly off-days for government offices as well as the corporate sector.

“There should be a difference between the office hours of private, government and BMC offices. At least a gap of one hour should be there. For instance, if a private office is starting at 9am, then BMC should start at 10 and so on for others. Moreover, it will help to control the crowd at other public places,” Gangavane said.

Implementing staggered office timings was also one of the suggestions made by a high-level committee formed by the Railway Ministry in 2015 to prevent a high number of cases in Mumbai of commuters falling from the running jam-packed local trains.

Railway officials said if staggered office hours are implemented, it would help them control the crowds at the stations and passengers would be able to board or alight from trains without pushing each other.

“Instead of having all manpower arrive and leave at practically the same time, different firms or even different branches of activities could adopt different starting and finishing work times. The traffic would thereby flow more smoothly, public transport would be utilised more rationally, and the physical and psychological strain would be also lessened," a Railway official said.

“Not only controlling the crowd in trains, this idea will help regulate the crowd on the roads and other public places too,” said transport expert Ashok Datar. He added that it was the perfect time to experiment with the idea.

Kailash Verma, General Secretary, Mumbai Rail Pravasi Sangh, another passenger association, said it has been following up with the state government for over a year to implement staggered office hours, to no avail yet.

“We had recommended that government employees be called to office in non-peak hours. We explained to them that if private sector employees reach office just one hour late, half their daily salary is deducted. Such is not the case with government staffers. There should be a two-hour gap between private and government sector employees travelling,” he said.

“A GR should be issued and the government should adjust the time of office goers based on the distance they are travelling every day. For instance, those coming from far off places like Virar or Badlapur for jobs in Mumbai should be called early and asked to leave early. Similarly, those coming from Thane, Ghatkopar, Andheri should be called a little late, so their office leaving time will be late. It will help a lot in reducing the crowd on the roads and in public transport,” Verma said.

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