Approximately 75,000 people travelled on Central (CR) and Western Railway (WR) on Tuesday, registering a marginal increase in the number of commuters on the second consecutive day of local trains operating for workers in essential services. Meanwhile, confusion remains on which sectors qualify as essential. Employees of the postal service, advocates and people in the banking sector are among those who have demanded access to train services. The state government is expected to finalise the list of essential services by the end of the week.
On Tuesday, WR saw 40,000 passengers and CR saw 35,000 on local trains. CR and WR had jointly seen a total of nearly 55,000 commuters on Monday, when select local train services resumed for those employed in essential services.
Compared to Monday, there were longer queues of passengers outside many stations on Tuesday, including Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) and Virar railway station. A total of 700 passengers are allowed on board each train, with approximately 58 passengers inside each compartment.
“Multiple exit and entry have been restricted to avoid unauthorised travel and overcrowding. Passengers are asked to report early and form a queue for inspection of identity cards and thermal screening before being allowed in the station premises.” said a senior railway official.
At most railway stations between Thane and Badlapur, there were large crowds and complaints about mismanagement on Tuesday. Long queues that flouted distancing norms were seen at Thane, Kalyan, Dombivli and Ambernath stations. Commuters complained there were no Government Railway Police (GRP) officials to manage the crowds till 10.30am.
Describing the scene at Thane station at around 8am, a commuter said, “There were no markings to guide people on where to stand, so people were crowding at ticket windows. I asked people in my queue and nearby to keep distance, but the people who came later were standing close like they had been earlier.”
Satish Jadhav, who works with Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and commutes from Kalyan to Dadar stations, saw similar scenes. “I came to the railway station around 8.30am and there was a long queue. Around 50 to 60 people were crowding around the counter. There have to be some rules and regulations to collect tickets in a queue,” he said.
Commuters say railway personnel were finally deployed at stations around 10am. Public relation officer for CR, S Sutar, said, “We deployed our own staff along with Railway and state police force officials to manage the crowd.” Smita Dhakne of GRP said there are adequate number of officers at all railway stations between Thane and Badlapur. “Our police personnel have been there at every railway station. They have been managing crowds and informing people to keep safe distance while getting into the train, on platform and ticket counters.”
According to the railways, 1.25 lakh essential staff are expected to use the local trains. However, there is still lack of clarity in terms of which sectors are permitted to avail train services. The railways had earlier stated BMC, Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking and Mumbai Police personnel as well as those working at Mantralaya and in government and private hospitals could travel by train. In order to board the trains, passengers have to undergo thermal screening and show identity cards.
However, requests to avail train services have been coming in from employees from other sectors. At present, those working in banking, postal services and media are not allowed to use trains. Advocates, airport employees and employees of pharmaceutical companies have also demanded access to train services. Some took to social media to raise their requests.
“@CMOMaharashtra @AUThackeray Sir Advocates in Mumbai should be allowed to board the local train since courts are open. They should be made to show their ID Card of association and further they can show the brief/file of the matter that is on board on that day,” tweeted @yogesh_katira.
“@WesternRly .. my wife is an employee of dept. of post government of India. Today at 8.00 am she went to Vasai road railway station to attend duty but she was not allowed to travel while her colleagues frm virar were allowed to travel. Why this discrimination,” tweeted @vincent98836594
The state government said the decision of which sectors qualify as essential services and whose employees may travel by train will be finalised in a week. “We have received requests from employees in the private health sector, journalists and others. Finalisation on the employees will be done within a week,” said a senior state government official.