Maximum city remains in the red zone but the now two-month-long lockdown, which entered its fourth phase on May 18, is clearly fraying, with traffic on the roads the main indicator of this. There are more vehicles on the roads than at any time since March 22, when the city shut down two days ahead of the national lockdown.
There are even traffic snarls on the highways and major roads across the city but largely on account of the police checkpoints on various roads. Armed with the knowledge of where the checkpoints are, several, including cab drivers, have found a way to ply their trade without landing in trouble.
Tilak Singh, a cab driver, had parked his kaali-peeli on one side of LJ Road in Mahim. When asked if the cab, which is not officially allowed to ply, was ready for hire, he replied in the affirmative. “I only take fares for south Mumbai, I do not go towards the suburbs. I know there is a police nakabandi on the road ahead so I take a few bylanes to circumvent the nakabandis,” Singh told The Indian Express.
“I do get fares through the day. I’m charging by the meter as I know everyone is in a desperate situation. I too have been in the city for too long to go back to my village,” Singh said, before driving off as he got a fare for Shivaji park. Like him, several auto and cab drivers were seen plying on internal roads of local areas, like in Andheri, which they know is not manned by police.
On the highways and major roads, however, the story is different. BEST buses plying migrants to railway stations, ambulances, essential services vehicles, delivery executives, JCB vans and dumpers dotted the Western Express Highway (WEH) on Wednesday evening. There were traffic snarls on the WEH in Vile Parle, on LJ Road near Machchimar Colony at Mahim and Worli naka due to police checkpoints. “The traffic is on account of the checkpoints but these are needed or else everyone will be on the road,” a traffic official said.
“Since past week, vehicles on the roads have gone up. Most vehicular traffic is in the morning hours,” said a traffic constable at a checkpoint on the WEH. “We allow vehicles with emergency services sticker. In other cases, they show us ID cards. In addition, there are several vehicles carrying migrants out of the city,” he added.
“In many cases, rumour-mongering has also led to people coming out on the roads. Many people show us WhatsApp messages claiming vehicular movement has been allowed. The messages are either false or misinterpreted by people,” said Raju Gaikwad, a traffic constable at a checkpoint on Cadell Road near Shivaji Park. “In some cases, people don’t have police passes but show us some medical slip. How can we allow them unless there is an emergency? We ask them to approach local police for permission,” he added.
Apart from this, there are youngsters on bikes. “They see police nakabandi from a distance, try to take a U-turn and flee. If we nab them, a case is registered and the vehicle impounded. They then have to figure out a way to return home by themselves,” he said.
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