Delhi Metro's Covid paradox

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Delhi Metro's Covid paradox

Riders flout social distancing norms, give wearing masks a slip

Delhi Metro's Covid paradox

The Delhi Metro resumed operations on June 7, after being shut as per strict guidelines during the recent Covid-induced lockdown. As expected, long queues were seen outside the Metro stations on a daily basis.

For an everyday commuter, this is not easy to comprehend. Understandably, the DMRC restricts entry at Metro stations to avoid crowded trains and flouting of Covid norms. However, even after waiting for 30-40 minutes to enter a station, a commuter's hassle doesn't seem to end. From long queues to crowded Metro coaches and blatant flouting of Covid norms, the list is endless.

Social distancing norms go for a toss inside the trains from 8 am till 11 am, the city's peak hours. These are also the hours when one has to wait the longest t board a Metro, or to even enter a station. On June 25, CitySpidey had reported similar violations.

A Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) tweet on July 1 took cognizance of the situation and said, "DMRC regrets the inconvenience caused to its esteemed passengers due to these restricts." 

Despite long queues, crowded Metro coaches are a common sight. Despite Metro's flying squads penalising people for not wearing the face mask regularly and not following social-distancing norms, riders continue to flout all Covid-19 norms.

Jayani Shah, a second-year BA (Hons) Economics student at DU’s Shri Ram College of Commerce, echoes a similar sentiment: “It’s important that people follow the guidelines issued by the government to ensure social distancing is maintained. If there is anything that the Covid-19 second wave taught is that we have to be extremely careful and take all precautions. Our battle with Covid-19 has not ended and we need to be vigilant. However, to ease the process for Delhi residents, strict steps need to be taken by the authorities. Maybe an increase in the frequency of the trains can ensure that the commuters are not left stranded leading to a crowd at the platforms.”

“Looking at the pictures of the crowd, I feel 'yeh nahi sudhrenge!' According to me, we as responsible citizens should be patient and respect the facility provided for our benefit rather than putting precious lives in danger,” said Aayush Jain, a commuter from Dwarka.

Anuj Dayal, executive director (corporate communications), DMRC, said that it has been observed that certain sections of the Metro network have been showing the trend of coach occupancy touching the 100% mark during the morning and evening peak hours.

"Comparably, during off-peak hours, the occupancy in the same sections is in the range of 30-50%, thus leaving ample scope for people to stagger their travel from peak hours to the extent possible and have a hassle-free travel 
with social distancing in place," Dayal said.

He added that the social distancing norms forced by the Covid-19 pandemic had reduced the number of passengers carried in a train to around a fifth of the earlier capacity. "To provide better occupancy in the changed scenario, the DMRC introduced peak hour frequency of trains from 8 am to 8 pm and also did away with the concept of off-peak hours from 11 am to 4 pm during which services were available with fewer trains and trips in the pre-lockdown days," he said.

Dayal said that commuters were advised to avoid unnecessary travel as far as possible and stagger travel timings for office, home or other work to the extent possible, which he said was for the passengers' own convenience. This also provides a more judicious utilisation of the coach capacity for each service.

The pattern seen during peak hours in some sections is also being seen in other sections, and, consequently, leading to long queues outside the stations due to regulated entry, said Dayal. However, the entry restrictions were essential to ensure physical distancing among passengers on the station premises.

Dayal assured that station gates would be closed if the crowd swelled enough to hamper social distancing rule. This, of course, would add to the journey time and inconvenience.

"The general public is once again requested to break the peak by staggering their travel timings to decongest the peak hours and avail the additional capacity available during off-peak hours for their own convenience and safety during the covid-19 pandemic," Dayal said.