From rushing into the buses violating all social distancing norms to absence of thermal scanning and hand sanitisers, neither the public nor the officials have been following COVID-safety precautions when this reporter made a two-way trip from Chennai to Madurai on Tuesday.
The bus conductors and drivers too did not care to instruct the passengers to follow social distancing norms. However, they checked whether all passengers were wearing masks. Though the Tamil Nadu government, in the SOP, had said that all passengers will be screened for symptoms before boarding the buses, no such procedure was followed. There were also no sign of any health worker to check upon the passengers.
The buses too were not in a good shape and the seats were particularly unclean. “With more than five months of down time for transport corporations, the least that could be expected from the Transport Corporations was cleaning of seats but that too was missing,” said a co-passenger on condition of anonymity. Though sanitisers were provided before boarding the buses in Dr MGR bus terminus in Chennai, the provision was missing in Madurai in all government buses. Social distancing was also not followed in the buses.
The situation was worse in town buses as most people were seen without face masks and the bus drivers and conductors did not even remind them of the rules. At a time when the State government has made violation of norms a compoundable offence, officials seemed to be lackadaisical towards implementing the rules.
When Transport Secretary Dharmendra Pratap Yadav was asked about the rules being flouted in government buses, he said, “We have issued the SOPs for the Transport Corporations to follow. Facilities were also made to enforce the rules but there are practical difficulties”. When asked why the Transport Department was not penalizing the public for violating guidelines as per the latest rules, the official said, “We are trying our best to make people observe safety precautions. However, there are practical difficulties in imposing penalties as well.”