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Delhi

Local commute rules eased as Capital begins to unlock

June 02, 2020 06:10 AM

COURTESY HT JUNE 2

Local commute rules eased as Capital begins to unlock
RESIDENTS RELIEVED: Restrictions on number of people per vehicle done away with but Metro remains on hold even as safety protocols are in place

A traffic jam at Vikas Marg on Monday morning as offices resumed operations with more staff members across Delhi. Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO
Soumya Pillai

soumya.pillai@htlive.com

New Delhi : Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal lifted restrictions on the number of passengers in auto rickshaws, taxis and private cars, as the government eased curbs on Monday, in moves that came as a major relief to officegoers who now have more options to commute to and from workplaces.

However, following the Centre’s guidelines, the Delhi government decided not to reopen Delhi Metro services.

“In light of the guidelines issued by the government, Metro services will remain closed for commuters until further notice. Our helpline services 155370 shall also not be available. You may reach us at helpline@dmrc.org,” read a Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) statement, following the government’s order on Monday.

A senior official at DMRC, who asked not to be named, said that even though the Metro is ready to restart operations while adhering to the norms of social distancing, they will abide by the government order.

“This is a call that both the governments will have to take. If they ask us to restart services, we are in a position to do that on short notice too,” the official said.

Meanwhile, commuters in the city welcomed government’s announcement on lifting passenger restrictions in auto-rickshaws, taxis, private cars, e-rickshaws and gramin sewas. Public buses will continue to operate with a passenger limit of 20 in each bus. However, with other modes of transport allowed to operate at full capacity, the load on public buses will probably be eased.

“We were told that people from the same family wanting to travel in an auto-rickshaw were facing difficulties because of the one-passenger limit. Since the central government has not limited the number of passengers now, we are also removing these restrictions,” Kejriwal said, while lifting the restrictions.

The government order said that those part of essential services, government officers with valid ID and those having travel passes issued by any district administration or the concerned authority will be allowed to travel to and from Delhi.

Two big takeaways of Monday’s order were: the reopening of barbershops and salons (though spas will remain closed), and the lifting of restrictions on the number of people travelling in four-wheelers, auto-rickshaws and e-rickshaws. While pillion-riding in two-wheelers is allowed, buses can carry a maximum of 20 passengers.

Another highlight was the scrapping of odd-even system for marketplaces. In the fourth phase of the lockdown (between May 18 and May 31), half the shops in a market were allowed on one day and the other half the next day and so on. Now, all shops in markets will be permitted to function seven days a week.

The fourth significant decision that stood out was the imposition of strict cubs on Delhi’s borders with Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Government employees, however, will be allowed passage on producing their identity cards.

During the fourth round of the lockdown, the Delhi government had capped the passenger limit to one in auto-rickshaws, e-rickshaws and cycle rickshaws. On two-wheelers, no pillion rider was allowed, and in private cars and cabs, only two passengers and the driver were allowed.

Rajender Soni, the general secretary of Delhi Autorickshaw Sangh, said that the removal of the single passenger limit from auto-rickshaws has come as a breather to drivers.

“There were barely any passengers, and we were forced to deny a ride to more than one person. Many drivers will benefit from this relaxation. Thousands of drivers were facing a major financial crisis during the lockdown,” Soni said.

He also said that even though these relaxations have been issued, drivers are being instructed by unions to take all requisite precautions, such as wearing masks all the time, washing hands whenever possible and keeping a bottle of hand sanitiser in the vehicle, for their and the passengers’ safety.

Cab aggregators such as Ola and Uber are also preparing a safety plan to normalise services. The Delhi government order did not specifically state if shared rides in cabs/taxis will be prohibited as was the case in the last four phases of the lockdown. A spokesperson for cab aggregator Ola said they will continue to restrict the number of passengers in their cabs to two and that they won’t restart shared rides in the Capital till there is clarity on the issue from the government.

“Only two passengers per ride will be allowed in the cab. They will also be urged to sit by the windows in the rear of the car,” the company said.

“All driver-partners have been asked to wear masks at all times. Before the start of each ride, they will have to upload a picture of themselves wearing their masks to authenticate the ride. They will also be provided with a hygiene kit with masks, sanitiser and disinfectants. Air conditioning will be switched off to avoid cross ventilation,” Ola cabs said in a statement on Monday.

Many officergoers said that travelling had become tedious due to the restrictions.

Tripti Yadav, who works in a private firm in Nehru Place, said she travels with a colleague, and because of the passenger limit in autos, they were being forced to take cabs to work, which was costing them a lot. “One or two days is fine, but if you have to take the cab everyday, then it starts to pinch your pocket. Even though the Metro is not operational, we will now be able to take the auto at a much lesser cost than the cabs,” Yadav said.

 

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