Echoing the state government, Municipal Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal has said the Centre should start local train services in Mumbai for workers involved in essential services.
Railways had shut train services since the lockdown was announced in March. Earlier this month, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to start Mumbai suburban railway services for the use of those working in essential services.
“I am sure in the coming few days, we will succeed in this (resuming local trains). We have requested the Centre,” Chahal said in a video press conference held on Tuesday.
He added, “Non-stop efforts are being made to resume local train and Metro services in Mumbai. Skeleton services can start, only during working hours – 7 am to 10 am and 5 pm to 8 pm – and only from a few stations that have big hospitals in their vicinity, so that paramedics, nurses and other staff members can travel.”
Several hospitals had reached out to the BMC claiming that they were unable to run routine services of OPD and admit patients as nurses, ward boys, security staffers and others could not travel from far off suburbs like Panvel, Badlapur, Kalyan-Dombivali and Vasai-Virar.
In BMC, too, over 50 per cent of employees stay in satellite towns of Mumbai. “We are facing a similar problem. I am confident that if local trains resume, we will have 100 per cent attendance. Private clinics and nursing homes will also be able to work at full strength and treat non-Covid patients,” said Chahal.
At present, staffers and essential service providers depend on BEST buses or their own vehicles for their daily commute. Even BEST drivers are wary of ferrying hospital staff and BEST services do not extend to far-off suburbs like Panvel, Badlapur, Kalyan-Dombivali and Vasai-Virar.
“At present, the staffers are spending five to six hours of the day in commuting to and from work. If train services resume, the travel time will reduce to two hours,” said Chahal. As a back-up plan, BMC has assured that it will increase the number of BEST buses and services.
Meanwhile, BMC has made biometric attendance mandatory for its health staffers. It has also raised the monthly stipend of intern doctors from Rs 11,000 to Rs 50,000 and of resident doctors to Rs 60,000. Private MBBS doctors registering with the BMC will be paid Rs 80,000 while specialists will be paid Rs 2 lakh per month.
Under the state government’s ‘Covid Yoddha’ appeal to private doctors, nurses and retired personnel, 3,700 respondents have registered with the BMC. Of them, 570 doctors and nurses have been appointed at Seven Hills hospital and BKC hospital at MMRDA grounds, as well as at isolation facilities at NSCI dome and Race Course in Mahalaxmi.
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