Karnataka limps back to normalcy; buses, autorickshaws resume services
Bengaluru, May 19: After rigid lockdown for 56 days to contain coronavirus, starting from March 24, Karnataka on Tuesday started limping back to normalcy with autorickshaw, cabs and city buses plying on the roads adhering to the new norms issued by the government.
After remaining in confinement for nearly two months, the taxi drivers, bus drivers and autorickshaw drivers flooded the roads, but with caution.
The Karnataka government had on Monday announced easing of restrictions allowing buses, autos and cabs to operate in the state with strict guidelines that the drivers have to compulsorily wear masks and use hand sanitisers.
It also specified the number of passengers to travel in these vehicles. There were however, problems galore all over. The Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) ran 1,500 buses on the first day in the state capital after the restrictions were relaxed. However, instead of issuing travel tickets, the BMTC started issuing daily, weekly and monthly passes.
A public relation officer of BMTC told PTI, "We are encouraging only long distance travel within the city instead of issuing tickets from one bus stop to another. Only those who are in need to visit from one place to another will travel."
He said only 20 people were inside the buses and the travellers were encouraged to use the QR codes, put up inside the buses, to make cashless payments to avoid exchange of cash. The Bengaluru Bus Prayanikara Vedike (BBPV), a union of bus passengers, opposed the BMTC compelling people to buy passes and not the ticket from one destination to another.
Most of the city buses ran almost empty as there were not many takers.
The Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) had to confront an unprecedented situation as there was commotion at bus stands in various parts of the state due to the mad rush of passengers. Following high demand, the corporation opearated 1,161 buses. Deputy Chief Minister Laxman Savadi, who is in charge of transport department, admitted that there were some shortcomings in the arrangements. He was however, confident that things would improve from Wednesday.
The autorickshaw drivers hit the roads in the state only to find very few passengers willing to take up the journey due to coronavirus scare. "We have resumed services but not many people are willing to travel in autorickshaws. We have been asked by the government to spray disinfectants on the vehicle before and after every commercial trip, but where will we get such a spray.
The government has to fund us, otherwise we will not survive," Manju, an auto rickshaw driver told PTI in Bengaluru. According to him, most of the drivers were allowing only one passenger to travel and some of them have put up a board between them and the passenger to avoid any contact with them. In Mysuru, the city buses and autorickshaws had few passengers whereas the inter-district buses, especially those to Bengaluru were full.
In Hubballi-Dharwad, the businesses resumed with full strength as the restrictions were eased. All the shops were open but the usual crowd was missing. Autorickshaws, city and inter-district buses operated to full capacity. In Belagavi, in North Karnataka adjoining Maharashtra, there was less movement of buses and autorickshaws on the roads though the shops were open. People preferred to travel in their own vehicles.