Despite the operation of special buses ahead of lockdown on Saturday and Sunday, it proved inadequate to meet the surging crowd.
Also, buses ran packed from other parts of Western region. The TNSTC and SETC buses which were running so far with skeletal number of passengers had good patronage on Sunday and they got filled up to 100 per cent seating capacity. However, private omni buses exploited the situation to fleece the already panicked public. Following complaints of fleecing, the transport department authorities carried out surprise inspections and seized a few buses for violation.
Officials of the Regional Transport Department stopped an over-crowded omni bus near Women’s Polytechnic at around 11 pm on Saturday and found more than 100 migrant workers on it in violation of COVID-19 safety protocol. Inquiries revealed that the passengers, all hailing from Bihar, had coughed up Rs 4,000 each to reach their native state. The north Indian workers were asked to get off and the bus was seized by the authorities. After detention of the bus, the migrant workers were sent to their native places by other buses.
Transport department officials said that they have seized around 10 private buses just in the last one week for various violations. Some buses were detained for overcrowding and others for operating without proper permits.
Following the crackdown, a large number of migrant workers resorted to protest at Gandhipuram Omni bus stand demanding to operate more buses to help them reach their native places. In the textile hub of Tirupur too, the migrant workers thronged the bus stands to leave for their native places.
“Already, most of the workers from our home state had left long back by trains soon after the outbreak of the second wave. Even then we continued with our work thinking that the situation may turn better. But, as the pandemic situation has gone from bad to worse, we decided to pack our bags and leave. We may return once the pandemic comes under control,” said S Ranjith Kumar, a textile firm worker from Bihar.
Both the old bus stand and new bus stand in Tirupur remain crowded with people from Southern districts too waiting to board buses to their respective destinations. The bus stands in Salem, Erode and other Western districts also witnessed heavy crowds with people desperate to reach their destinations.